AFLW: Media coverage of women’s competition ‘almost inconceivable’

AFLW: Media coverage of women’s competition ‘almost inconceivable’

AFLW: Media coverage of women’s competition ‘almost inconceivable’ 150 150 CWESN

Damian McIvor –

The media success of the new women’s AFL competition is “almost inconceivable” and the game has broken new ground where netball and soccer could not, an expert says.

The opening round of the inaugural league attracted more than 1.7 million viewers nationally across Friday and Saturday night on free-to-air-television, while more than 50,000 fans attended the four games in Melbourne and Adelaide.

“It is really amazing,” media analyst Dr Kate Greenwood said.

“How they have used the media really intelligently to engage the audience, how they have worked with broadcasters to get it on prime time and also for the audience to watch that in record numbers.”

Dr Greenwood was the co-author of a study into the Australian media’s coverage of women’s sport in 2010. The report, Towards a level playing field: sport and gender in Australian media, was conducted on behalf of the Australian Sports Commission, and found women sport accounted for less than 10 per cent of all sports coverage across the country.

“It was a finding that I don’t think necessarily surprised everyone, but it was quite sobering,” she said.

“It was this sort of dead-lock or chicken and the egg scenario, where athletes’ profiles are simply lower, media outlets are not necessarily going to send their journalists to games if they are not sure the audience exists.”

Dr Greenwood said there had been “piece-meal” progress made by netball, soccer and other codes in recent years, but nothing like what she has witnessed with women’s AFL.

“It was almost inconceivable … getting broadcasters to take the risk to show the sport, and then of course engaging all the fans and supporters as well. This is really the dream scenario,” she said.

Build for sustainable competition, not short-term success

It is also a dream scenario for television broadcasters Seven and Foxtel, who have signed a two-year broadcast deal with the league to broadcast the games, without having to pay any rights fees.

While the early success of the competition has come as a surprise to many, those who have worked closely with the women’s code say its potential has long been evident.

“I was not surprised with what we ended up with [on the weekend],” Chyloe Kurdas, a former women’s football manager with AFL Victoria, said.

“We have always known that we were sort of sitting on a gold mine with female football, and it was just a matter of convincing everyone that they had a gold mine there waiting for them.”

Ms Kurdas is convinced the league can eventually expand to 18 teams with fully-paid professional footballers, but she said the growth needed to be managed.

“We don’t want an amazing competition for two years but we overinvest and then by year three we have run out of money,” she said.

“You want to make sure that we are building something that is sustainable and we want this to be around for 100 years.”