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Why The Media Deserves A Red Card At The Women's World Cup

Coverage of the Women's World Cup has been more about the athletes' personal lives than sport. Once again, sexism in sport is on fully display.

Two women soccer players celebrating.

Eva Navarro (Spain) post game celebration after Tuesday's match.

Kim Price/CSM via ZUMA Press Wire
Ana Flores


The competition for the 2023 Women's Soccer World Cup, which began on July 20 and concludes on August 20 in Australia and New Zealand, has already caused several controversies. Days prior to the first match, the United Nations and the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) estimated that there would be an audience of two million people.

Despite initial enthusiasm for the “Unite for gender equality," the media once again showed its lack of interest, commitment and professionalism to strengthening international guidelines against discrimination.

Weeks before the opening match between New Zealand and Norway, the conglomerates of the Global North revealed what, apparently, is the only reason they have for promoting women's sport: monetary benefits.

Broadcast rights

In May, FIFA president Gianni Infantino and public relations director Bryan Swanson reported that broadcasters in the big five in the European markets (Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany and France) were not willing to pay huge amounts for broadcast rights. The amounts are equivalent to 1% and 3% of what they invested for Qatar 2022.

In Latin America, the no-broadcasting warning was more subtle in financial terms, but just as violent in symbolic terms. Added to the very limited offer, the private companies in charge of the broadcasts (TUDN and Vix) barely promoted the matches.

The actors involved resorted to the argument that time differences were an obstacle to reaching audiences.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino in the stands.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino before the semi-final match between Spain and Sweden at the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand, Aug. 15, 2023.

Zhu Wei/Xinhua via ZUMA Press

Sexism in sport

The lack of coverage does not only come from the television conglomerates. Sports journalism has not missed opportunities to score their sexist goals.

Websites have focused their efforts in making the private lives of the athletes the axis of one of the oldest and most sexist narrative resources of media: fights and enmity between women.

This formula, so common among producers and show runners incapable of offering a dignified representation of women, is compounded by the resistance of "professionals" to refer to us as players, referees, coaches and champions.

In its early days, the coverage of the Women's World Cup exposed two of the strategies with which media violence is present: 1) the gossip and spectacle-centric coverage of the sportswomen as sexualized and 2) the condescension behind words like "warriors" or "lionesses".

We are tired of our history being narrated from the myth of exceptionality. Or from terms that do not bother those who have never wanted us — or will want us — on the pitch.

For many women, the battle against patriarchy begins on the pitch.

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