It was back in 1999 that the ABC’s Media watch program broke the ‘Cash for Comments’ story. In it they revealed that high profile radio personalities had been paid for making favourable comments on air about certain major businesses. There was an uproar when the public realised that they had been duped.
Is the same thing or similar currently happening with the Women’s AFL?
It is a fact that in Western Australia the WA Football Commission used to buy two pages in The West Australian newspaper and receive another two pages of WAFL coverage for free. The West Australian never during that time revealed that the pages of editorial had been paid for by the Football Commission, which under newspaper regulations they should have.
This was how a state based competition managed to obtain four pages of coverage each week when other sports highest level of competition in the state were unable to receive as much as a paragraph on their sport, even though it was on an equal footing with the WAFL in terms of the level of competition.
When the Commercial television stations were approached in relation to deadlines to give them the then State League football results, so that they could feature these along with the WAFL scores on their news bulletins on a Saturday, the head of sport advised that they would not want them, and would never feature them.
It has been a known fact that the media is heavily skewed towards AFL, as this sport after cricket is Australia’s national game. It is their own game, one played rarely outside of Australia, so its protection is paramount. However the coverage of the Women’s AFL is completely disproportionate to the actual competition.
Are media outlets being incentivised to run stories on the Women’s AFL? Are journalists receiving “bonuses” for stories on the Women’s AFL?
The coverage being given to what is no more than a fledgling competition is remarkable. The only explanation is that the AFL must be paying for this added editorial coverage.
As much as many of these media outlets must be patting themselves on the back, and preening themselves over the fact that they are finally giving women’s sport some airtime, they do not seem to appreciate how this coverage is in actual fact infuriating elite female athletes from other sports.
In Western Australia alone the Perth Lynx have fought for years to gain such coverage on their involvement in the Women’s National Basketball League. The Perth Glory women, unless they are in the finals warrant no more than a glancing comment or a paragraph on their efforts in the now well established and respected W-League. As for the Western Fury women’s cricket team they receive even less coverage than their footballing counterparts, even though their competition has been running since 1996, and the W-league only since 2008.
You even have based in Perth the cream of the nations women’s hockey players, the Hockeyroos. All of these women play each week in a local state competition making it one of the best leagues in the country. In fact the Hockeyroos are ranked fourth in the World and with a few good results could leap to third, yet even they struggle to receive the coverage that the Women’s AFL has received.
If we turn our attention away from the team sports there are also a number of globally recognised female athletes in individual sports who struggle for coverage, and these are athletes have international medals to back up their performances, athletes such as Paralympians Madeline Scott and Madison de Rozario, Olympic silver medallist Tamsin Cook, Golfer Minjee Lee, Commonwealth Games skeet shooting gold medallist Laura Coles are just some names that warrant coverage.
Sadly the publicity coup of having athletes from other sports join the Women’s AFL bandwagon backfired when it came to Javelin thrower Kim Mickle, as she ruptured her ACL playing for the Fremantle Dockers. Mickle had her Olympic dream shattered in Rio when she dislocated her shoulder and has since announced that her Women’s AFL career has been shelved as she fights her way back to fitness, and her primary goal of winning back-to-back gold medals at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Some of the media reports made out that the Fremantle Dockers were being really good to allow Mickle to pursue her Commonwealth Games goal. Yet the truth is she is first and foremost a top international Javelin thrower, and is most likely to always be remembered as such.
From the outside looking in it is hard to understand why this competition has garnered such an unreasonable amount of coverage, coverage that continues even though the season is well and truly over and only lasted seven weeks plus finals!
Hence the question as to whether media outlets and journalists are being ‘looked after’ by the AFL to give the one women’s sport so much coverage, coverage that is disproportionate to other well established high standard competitions.