Equity seems a pipe dream when it comes to broadcasting women’s sports

CityNews1130/The Associated Press/Andy Jacobsohn

On Jan. 29th, 2020, two-time Olympic bronze medalist Christine Sinclair of Burnaby, B.C. became the person, not woman, with the most goals on the international stage. If you wanted to see it, you would have had to purchase another streaming service, another sports bundle, another YouTube channel.  More money, less visibility. “If she can’t see it, she can’t be it.” 

Perhaps the hardest truth is that Canada knew it was coming.  If you’re a follower of the dark corners of sports media where women’s soccer can be hunted, there was considerable hype and anticipation while we waited on the record-breaking goal by our 14-time Canadian Soccer Player of the Year.  Young girls nationwide, the ones with extra money for premium sports packages, had their heads pressed together surrounding their smartphones, ready to take in some history. I wonder if the prime minister had a front row seat or if he was one of the One Soccer subscribers who watched the feed while it repeatedly succumbed to the internet.   

There are 85,000 girls in Canada who play soccer.  One of our very own became the most celebrated goal scorer in the world’s most beloved game.  She is the most capped active international footballer and one of only two players worldwide scoring in five World Cups. What’s a girl gotta do to get some airtime? 

Tom Brady entered the NFL in 2000; the same year Sinclair started playing for our country.  They both wear #12, they’re both world class athletes, legends in their sport, and revered by millions.  Sadly though, the pair have little else in common. Brady’s net worth is over $200 million but I can’t find anything on who’s really paying Sinclair. I can’t even find her on TV or buy my daughters a jersey with her name on it. But on every mainstream channel, free or paid, in our country with no NFL team, everyone is still talking about Brady.   

Young athletes everywhere have been at home watching male athletes living their dreams atop money hills, while their return to play in this never-ending pandemic keeps getting delayed. Grassroots coaches countrywide are hopping around Zoom with a ball in a 4×4 dance space trying to keep our youth active and engaged in this devastating time for kids. We could all use a bit of inspiration right now.    

Though Sinclair is currently out with an injury, her team of powerful and supremely talented women are competing in the SheBelieves Cup! OneSoccer continues to be our champion by securing the coverage and rights and we’re grateful, but we’re broke.   

The national team is OURS.  We support it with our tax dollars.  It is available for conventional broadcasters such as TSN, Sportsnet and their friends to purchase and air LIVE on their platforms. CBC has announced they will show two of the games, but delayed by two and three days!  This gravely impacts viewership and will extinguish social media buzz entirely.  No live tweeting by the masses or fan connectedness because we will have been there, done that and further set up to fail when the numbers roll in. 

Over one billion people watched the FIFA Women’s World Cup, so boys, it’s not about the numbers.  But sure, we can talk numbers for a quick sec.   

The Blue Jays are owned by Rogers Communications. They just paid $150 million to George Springer for only six years of his potential services. His resume also includes winning the World Series on a team that was found guilty of cheating.

Scotiabank runs heartwarming ads featuring little sisters scoring on their big brothers but is that their valiant attempt at supporting women’s sports? This same organization shelled out $800 million to get their name on a single venue owned by MLSE, which has no professional women’s team in their portfolio.  Bell Media and Rogers Communications hold equal shares in the MLSE, Sportsnet is owned by Rogers and TSN by Bell.  Show us the money.  All the cool kids are doing it. 

Unfortunately, there is only limited time to make it up to Christine Sinclair because, unlike Tom Brady, we are not secretly hoping she retires, but she still might.  She is a hero to those 85,000 girls who continue to play the beautiful game, and with a little help and some honest and overdue investment, she can be a hero for little boys too. If they can’t see it, they won’t believe it.  

The SheBelieves Cup is Feb. 18th-24th.

Natalie Mazzarelli is a sports fan, Canada Soccer-licensed coach, former player, mom of three girls, Niagara College professor of Justice Studies, mentor and cheerleader of female athletes.

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