Women’s Sports Column – The Next Phase

thank youI promised, before I went on holiday, that there would be news about the future of the column on my return.

So here it is:

Essentially, I will no longer be able to write a weekly column – there are several factors that have led me to that decision, so let me explain.

Firstly, the column was always a means to hopefully several ends; that I was able to get a whole raft of women’s sports news out in one place every week, but also that it would showcase my writing skills and help me to get paid work doing the thing that I love.

The first I think I have managed reasonably well.  I have a small but loyal band of followers and I would like to thank you for your support.  The second has not been such a success.

I don’t want to descend into cliché heaven but I have reached the point of a “perfect storm”, which has now encouraged me to end the weekly column.

Firstly, and not wanting to sound self-pitying, I have realised that I’m never going to be the great sports journalist that I am in my mind.  There are so many young women out there finally being given the chance to do the job that there is no way I can compete.  And I wish them all the luck in the world – they will have to fight hard to get anywhere in this sector, but I see more and more talented women coming through and it is wonderful.  They are talented, they are determined and I will be delighted to see them succeed.

At the same time, I have been offered a promotion in the “day job” and I have decided to take it.  It means taking on more hours, which is the telling issue for the column.  The blog takes me usually nearly two full days to research, write and post and I just won’t have that time any more.  Even though I cannot pretend it is the job of my dreams, it is a great job and I am fortunate to work in such a great place with such a fabulous (and uniquely quirky) team.  Check out: www.johnstorercharnwood.org.uk for details.

And thirdly, I feel that due to the (relative) explosion in the media coverage of women’s sport, my column is somewhat redundant.  Don’t get me wrong, all is not rosy out there and we have a massive way to go.  But even during the four years I have been writing the blog, things have improved beyond recognition.  This is the aspect I’m most pleased about, if this doesn’t sound bizarre.

I have been privileged to attend and write about some fabulous sport over the past four years and I have loved it so much.  No doubting my favourite – the Cricket World Cup final in 2017.  But I have also loved writing about the politics – pieces on International Women’s Day, pieces about trans women in sport, etc – these are the issues that make my heart race and I would still say, if there are any commissioning editors out there who would like me to write a feature on any aspect of women’s sport, I would do it like a shot!

Once I settle down into my new role, I will know what time (and energy) I have to commit to writing.  So this is au revoir, not goodbye.  I am fully determined to write occasional pieces, especially if things happen that need me to rant at length!

Make no mistake, women’s sport is still seen as second or even third class around the world.  This needs to change, but recently I have begun to think this just may happen.  It may not be during my lifetime, but I fully expect the next generation to complete the job.

But even as the media coverage improves, we must continue to hold the media and governing bodies to account.  We must speak out when we see discrimination and we must fight with every breath until female athletes, officials and administrators are given proper recognition and equal opportunity.  And you can be rest assured that I will still be doing this at every point I can.

So for now, this is it.  Please keep following me for my Twitter feed and my occasional pieces and feel free to contact me via the website if you have any questions, queries, comments (or jobs!).

It has been a pleasure.

Penny

Anti-Apartheid to Women’s Sport – it’s all about campaigning

Along with many others I became politicised at university in the People’s Republic of Sheffield.  The group I fell in with were far more politically advanced than I was and I would like to thank them all for awakening my social conscience.  Growing up in Thatcher’s Britain (Yes, I’ve just dated myself there) one couldn’t help but get involved – and I did – with a passion.

Anti-Apartheid, Amnesty International, campaigning against Pinochet in Chile, Cambodia/Kampuchea, we did it all.  Then there were the domestic issues; poll tax, student loans (won one, lost one).  I was just off Westminster Bridge when the mounted police charged.  “Education is a right, not a privilege”, etc.

And so, a lot older, but not necessarily wiser, I’m still passionate about social justice, inequality, women’s rights and the gap between rich and poor.  Perhaps I don’t demonstrate as I once did, but I write, I tweet and still get angry.

So where does women’s sport come into all this?  You can’t compare the campaign for the promotion of women’s sport to protesting against the iniquitous regime in South Africa.  So what if you can’t see women’s sport on television, you’ve not “disappeared” under the rule of a ruthless dictator in Latin America.

But I don’t think that’s the point.  The “struggle” to get women’s sport the recognition and coverage it deserves is a battle and part of  a larger battle for women’s equality.  I’m not fooling myself we will achieve this in my lifetime, but for as long as I can I will be doing my bit, and at the moment my focus is on the fight for the right of every girl and woman, at whatever level, from fun to grassroots to elite performance to have access to play, officiate, administrate or just watch any sport she wants to.

And there are, undoubtedly, incredibly hideous aspects to this fight – Sri Lankan and Pakistani cricketers being abused by their coaches, women having to undergo regular and demeaning gender-testing and women in the Middle East unable even to enter sports stadia; it’s not all about the lack of media coverage.

Four years ago, when I started writing about this, I felt I was in the vanguard.  I wasn’t  sure how many people were reading me,  but it felt good to be doing it.  Now it’s the buzzword, the hot topic and I feel a little bit rueful that I’m still saying the same stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love writing about sport – be it straightforward match reports or tournament previews or searing indictments of sexism, misogyny or inequality.  But now everyone’s saying it I feel I should be doing more – back to the demonstrating perhaps?  No, there’s no demonstrating to be done, but I would also like to be more practically involved.

Words are powerful weapons and they’re what I do best, but let me get my administrative head on or utilising my organising skills and watch me go.  Anyone need any help?  Let me know!  In the meantime, I’ll keep writing, publicising and making my point in the best way I know how.