You of course set up the sports website SportsWomen.ie to concentrate on women in sport, What prompted this idea ?
The idea came from constantly giving out that there was very little coverage of women’s sport in the national media. With everything going online these days, I thought online was the way to go and hence the website.
Having played hockey for UCC in the 90s, at that time what sort of reaction did you get when you played hockey or any sport ?
In fairness the inequity between mens and womens sport never really affected me in those days. I played in a sport where men and women are equal and we had a great woman called Ruth O’Mahony who reported on our games in the Cork Examiner, so I have scrap books of coverage.
In recent years, do you think the coverage of women in sport has improved ?
I do think in the last 3 years there has been a big shift in the attention women’s sport is getting. With Lidl coming on board with the LGFA you have significant money going into the most popular sport (numbers wise) in Ireland. RTE have included in their strategic plans more coverage of women’s sport.
However I still pick up a newspaper from time to time and women’s sport still is very much under represented.
What would you like to see happen over the next few years ?
I would like to see increased numbers going to women’s sporting events. I would like more teenage girls to stay in sport and exercise.
I would like government to give equal monetary support to men’s and women’s sport. The GAA (which is an all male association) still receives huge money from government, while I don’t begrudge the money they receive, the women’s side should be receiving the same amount per head. I would also like to see other sports come to the fore and this can only be done with more investment from government.
I think government also needs to set up an advocacy group dedicated to Women’s Sport. There is a Women in Sport fund which is used to develop women’s sport but we need research, sponsorship, more coverage, more women on sporting body boards and this can only be done with a group or body solely encouraging all these areas.
Joanne Cantwell will take over from Michael Lyster as the Sunday Game Presenter in 2019, do you think this is a move that could pave the way for more women to take on the main presenting roles on different sports shows ?
I do think there are many good female presenters on radio and TV. For me it is not about taking over but for eg I would like to see more females be part of the commentary panels on GAA/Rugby/other sports. And not the token female. We have many great sportswomen out there who know their game and can offer their own punditary. There is no reason why women can’t be the main presenter and hopefully with Joanne in the limelight it will normalise women being the main presenter.
You have unfortunately decided to shut down the site, what made you make this decision ?
I spent 3 years on the site. It really took over my life and it was coming to a stage where my energies for the work were beginning to flag. So I thought quit while I am ahead and not let the site suffer. I would have liked to have made more money from the venture but it was difficult to do this. Continental Tyres sponsored the soccer page and came in early, however there weren’t enough of those to help me keep the site going.
If it was financially viable I may have been able to keep it going. However I feel proud of what I did for women’s sport. I do think I helped raise the profile of Irish women’s sport and was part of the movement that has helped change the landscape of women’s sport
Through the use of social media, your work gained great traction within different sports teams and organisations, did this help you out ?
Social media through Facebook and twitter was how I got the word out, so without it it would have been very difficult to get the message out. I didn’t have the money for a huge marketing campaign which would have helped !
Into the future, would you like to resurrect the website ?
If there was someone out there who was willing to take it on I would most definitely help them out. I still retain the domain name.
Lastly Sharon , where would you like to see Women’s sports coverage in 5 or 10 years time ?
I would like when we talk about sport we have to distinguish which sex is playing. “That was a great rugby match at the weekend” and someone would ask are you talking about the men or the women. I would like significant coverage in all media. While I don’t think there will be 50/50 I would love if there was at least 30% (just like the quotas!!) While the individual sports are 50.50, like athletics, swimming, rowing, it is the team sports where things have to change. Women’s sport has a lot to offer, it just needs to be given a chance but women also have to do it for themselves and support their own.
Here is my interview with the creator of the SportsWomen.ie website that was dedicated to women’s sports.
Cian Mc Gibney