Women’s sports tend to live in the shadows of the sporting world, receiving significantly less news coverage than male-dominated sports and including very few bylines by female writers. The problem is global: In the United States, 40% of sports participants are female, yet they get only 4% of all sports media coverage.
In the U.K., research showed that women’s sports received only 2% of newspaper sports coverage and only 2% of all sports bylines belonged to female writers. But even though women lagged behind in coverage, attitudes toward women’s sports have gradually been changing.
The London 2012 Olympics were hailed as “The Year of the Woman,” and British track and field star Jessica Ennis-Hill was proclaimed the face of London 2012. Meanwhile, the This Girl Can campaign, developed by Sport England, promoted sports and exercise amongst women. And women’s football has grown enough that the Women’s Super League became a true professional competition in 2018. Yet, even with the growing interest and changing attitudes, coverage of women’s sports remained stagnant.
Telegraph Media Group decided to change that by introducing Telegraph Women’s Sport, a monthly 12-page standalone supplement launched in March 2019. With a bold mission to provide unprecedented coverage of women’s sports across its platforms, the goal was to address the under-representation of women’s sport in both the print and digital media.
Recruiting key players
To do that, it brought in an editorial team led by Women’s Sports Editor Anna Kessel to deliver unprecedented coverage of female athletes. With a deputy editor, social media editor, and three full-time writers, TWS not only gave more coverage to women’s sports, but multiplied the number of female bylines in sports coverage.
In addition to the monthly standalone supplement, TWS delivered fully integrated content in the Telegraph’s print and online Sport sections, as well as in TWS’s designated social and digital channels.
But the Telegraph saw a need to go beyond increasing the editorial coverage and also took on a mission to change the way women’s sports are perceived. TWS was determined to change the narrative that surrounds women’s sports, taking on such controversial topics as menstruation, vaginal health, fat-shaming, and sexual harassment. Its Girls, Inspired campaign was designed to close the gender gap in school sports, and TWS worked with 13 major brands to raise the visibility and profile of women’s sports.
A home run
In its first year, TWS reached and surpassed its objectives. The team won the coveted Sports Newpaper of the Year at the 2019 British Sports Journalism Awards, the Girls, Inspired campaign was a winner at the Everything in Sport Women’s Edition awards, and football reporter Katie Whyatt was named Sports Journalist of the Year by Words By Women.
Its growing audience was evidenced by the more than 3.5 million page views during World Cup coverage and impressive Snapchat numbers that included 1.1 million views for an interview with gymnast Simone Biles. Its investigation into the medical care provided to female athletes prompted research into concussions affecting sportswomen, and as a result of TWS's reporting, The Football Association introduced medical insurance for its top women players.
Through this initiative, TWS has introduced a new narrative for women’s sports, broadened its audience, and raised the bar on coverage of female athletes and sporting events. And editor Kessel said it continues to accomplish what it set out to do.
“We predicted that Telegraph Women’s Sport would bring about a revolution in sports coverage — and it has. We are thrilled to see women’s sport elevated onto front pages and making national headlines, but there is still much work to be done.
“We are committed to telling these stories, highlighting injustice, and championing sporting excellence along the way.”