Sustained media interest is a must if women’s sport is to grow, according to a University of Stirling media expert and former international footballer.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup final kicks-off on Sunday and the tournament is expected to draw a total worldwide TV audience of more than one billion viewers.
However, Dr Katharina Lindner, University of Stirling Film & Media Programme Director, is unconvinced the unprecedented TV viewing figures will translate into greater mainstream media coverage in the UK for women’s football and sport in future.
Writing in The Conversation, the former Germany U21 international said: “It is crucial that media interest in the sport continues in the UK once the tournament is over. Recent research by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation found that only seven percent of all sports coverage is devoted to women’s sports.
“Poor media coverage has major implications for the wider sporting landscape. It is a major barrier for sustained commercial investment in almost all women’s sports.
“It should not come as a surprise that women’s sport accounts for an appallingly low 0.4 percent of all commercial spending on sport in the UK. Female athletes are often reduced to relying on the exposure that they can gain during big events like the Olympics to ensure their financial survival.”
Dr Lindner is on the board of Scottish Women's Football (SWF) and enjoyed an impressive football career, winning seven Scottish Premier League titles and four Scottish Cups in eight seasons with Glasgow City. She was also voted an All American during her time studying in the USA, named one of the best 11 players in the country.
Stirling, as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, is committed to the development of women’s football and worked with the Scottish FA to establish a national performance centre. Stirling offers scholarships to talented women’s footballers with the team competing in the Scottish Women’s Premier League.
Dr Lindner added: “Lack of coverage also has important consequences for grassroots participation.
"This is why it is so encouraging that a fundamental change for women's football could now be around the corner. Yes it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario and media presence doesn’t necessarily come first. But the media is unarguably a driving force, so it has the power to make all the difference.”