Three women’s world cups to be played in New Zealand over the next three years – but how well does this country really do when it comes to equity in sport? 

New Zealand’s the place to be when it comes to women’s sport over the next three years – we’re playing host to three of the biggest tournaments in the world.

It’s certainly something to be proud of – but how inclusive are we really when it comes to giving women’s sport a fair go?

In today’s episode of The Detail, Emile Donovan sits down with LockerRoom editor Suzanne McFadden to discuss the upcoming women’s cricket, rugby and football world cups – and what they mean for women’s sport in Aotearoa.

The Black Ferns are the most dominant rugby team in world history – and one of the most dominant sports teams, full stop.

But ask yourself a question: how many Black Ferns can you name off the top of your head? Honestly?

Despite decades of success at the highest levels – often much more so than their male counterparts – many commentators argue New Zealand sportswomen still grapple with low name recognition, low broad public interest, and a lack of ambition and promotion from sporting bodies.

But with three women’s world cups coming to New Zealand over the next three years (cricket and rugby in 2021, and football in conjunction with Australia in 2023), Newsroom’s Suzanne McFadden says we have the chance to celebrate some of our finest sportspeople, while also introducing great swathes of the population to a new generation of sporting heroines.

“I think it’s really important – not only for women’s sport, but for sport in New Zealand.

“For our young people – male and female – to see that women’s sport is strong, it’s very watchable … that the Black Ferns don’t have to be exactly like the All Blacks: they have their own style of play.

“It’s really important that our next generation see that strength, and have the backing of New Zealand. We wouldn’t have these world cups here if New Zealand didn’t believe not only that [these sports] are strong here, but that people are interested in them.”

The imbalance in media coverage of men’s and women’s sport is a well-trod path: in a 2019 article, the University of Auckland’s Toni Bruce says women’s sport has made up about 10 percent of media coverage for the past 30 years.

And while the amount of coverage may have increased in recent years, the tone of it can be counterproductive: tending to focus on the fact that women’s sport is being covered, in a sort of self-congratulatory meta-analysis, rather than covering the stories on their merits, as men’s sports are.

Suzanne McFadden says striking the balance between conventional sports reporting and advocating for better coverage of women’s sport – and celebrating it – can be delicate.

“I started off seeing myself as a sports journalist, and then those lines blurred.

“I don’t see myself as a great advocate for women’s sport – and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I see myself as telling stories that aren’t being told that help to grow women’s sport. It’s a crossover, really.

“At the end of the day, I’m just telling good stories. And if that can help to get more women and girls playing sport, or to get more guys interested in women’s sport, I think that’s a good thing.”

So – what does New Zealand need to do to capitalise on its enviable position over the next couple of years? And could the term “women’s sport” be itself part of the problem?

Listen to the full podcast to find out.

Want more from The Detail? Find past episodes here.

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