Media impact for women in sailing

Published on March 11th, 2020

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
When I was asked at the 2020 Sailing Leadership Forum about media impact on the relevance of women in sport, I stepped into a pile of “chicken or egg” dung in my answer. I said the media follows what is of most interest, and when you compare ticket sales between NBA and WNBA, the men’s game draws more interest.

I was quickly reminded that media coverage creates interest, and television time for men’s and women’s professional basketball in the USA is far from balanced. I immediately regretted my example, but to whatever extent media leads the train, if their coverage doesn’t present information of broad interest, they lose eyeballs which impacts revenue.

The topic of gender and sport came to mind when reading about the messy legal saga within US Soccer for equal pay as lawyers for the US Women’s National Team employer argued in a court filing that women athletes receive less pay because they are less skilled and work less demanding jobs than their male counterparts.

Yikes!

But it was also not long after the 2020 Sailing Leadership Forum in which Scuttlebutt’s coverage of the 2020 Laser Radial World Championships was completely unbalanced between men and women…it was nearly all about the women.

This decision had everything to do with what was of most interest. The Laser Radial is the equipment for a women’s Olympic event, whereas the men’s fleet is full of high-level recreational sailors. The women’s fleet had 105 competitors compared to 66 male sailors, and many of the women were fighting for selection to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The women were the story, not the men, and foolish the person that doubts the skill or effort by 2020 Women’s World Champion Marit Bouwmeester.

Next up will be the 2020 470 World Championships on March 16-21 in which there are about twice as men/mixed teams as women teams. While this disparity might make for another bad basketball example, it’s more a reflection of gender unbalance in the sport as opposed to what is of most interest.

A debate for another day.

But the 470 boat is the equipment for the Men’s and Women’s Two Person Dinghy events at Tokyo 2020, and activity within both fleets is of massive interest, particularly for the USA as three teams are nearly even as this event determines Olympic selection. Their ‘event within the event’ may be the star of the show in Palma, Spain. I can’t wait to watch.

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