Women in Sport

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2003 National Women's Conference
23 October 2002
Carried as Amended

Conference is concerned about the continuing invisibility of women in sport. Despite what may be considered to be saturation coverage of sporting events by terrestrial, cable and satellite television, very little of this coverage is of women’s sport. Indeed it could be argued that sport on TV has become synonymous with men’s sport, and the only time women feature in sports coverage is when they are participating in major events such as the Olympic Games, the World Athletics Championships, the World Swimming Championships etc which are held every 2 or 4 years. Even the coverage of major tennis championships is biased towards the men who seem to command far more air time than their women counterparts. When it comes to everyday sports then women hardly feature at all. Such a situation cannot be allowed to continue unchecked or more worryingly so unremarked upon as though it were a given.

Whilst campaigns to eradicate racism in sport are rightly gaining widespread support, the traditional sexism of many sportsmen, pundits, commentators etc continues unabated and unchallenged, and is reflected in the attitudes to women in sport and to its (lack of) coverage throughout the media. Furthermore whilst many top sportsmen enjoy a luxurious lifestyle funded by lucrative contracts and sponsorship deals, very few top sportswomen are in such an enviable position which is further evidence of their inequitable status as compared to men in sport.

As the largest public sector union in Europe, UNISON must take up this issue and publicise its inequity and indefensibility. Sport is a major public pastime supported by vast numbers of people both as a participatory and as a spectator activity, and yet women remain invisible in most media coverage of sport which further reinforces their inequitable position and maintains the status quo.

Conference therefore instructs the National Women Committee:

1)to support and publicise the women’s sports foundations campaign to publicise the invisibility of women in sport and the sexism that this both demonstrates and maintains, to seek support for this campaign and to ask the APF to take this up through the UNISON Parliamentary Group including an approach to the Sports Minister Richard Caborn;

2)to seek to promote within UNISON publications information about what UNISON women are already achieving themselves in sport and about the sponsorships UNISON is providing to women’s sporting events.