Contact: Sarah Nicholas
STARKVILLE, Miss.—With the 2023 Women’s World Cup just days away, a Mississippi State University faculty member is leading the charge to increase visibility for women in sports, and her work is specifically helping shift media coverage of soccer.
Sociology Associate Professor Rachel Allison is a co-author of the new study “Gender Equality in the ‘Next Stage’ of ‘New Age?’ Content and Fan Perceptions of English Media Coverage of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup” published in the Sociology of Sport Journal today [July 6]. The research, led by England’s Durham University, indicates media coverage of women’s soccer has substantially increased in the last few years, with equal coverage continuing to grow.
Specifically, the study found a six-fold increase in the number of articles in English print newspapers during the 2015 and 2019 Fédération Internationale de Football Association Women’s World Cups, a reduction in infantilizing or degrading language, and criticism of players and teams in line with typical reporting of men’s soccer, among other findings.
“The increased quantity and quality of media coverage of the Women’s World Cup is a positive trend, but the attention does tend to wane in the years between tournaments,” Allison said. “The fans in our study also want more regular media coverage of professional leagues like the Women’s Super League or National Women’s Soccer League. This coverage would help audiences to become invested in and knowledgeable about players before the next Women’s World Cup.”
The report makes numerous recommendations—including year-round coverage of women’s domestic leagues featuring high-quality, knowledgeable commentators—to continue elevating the sport and tackling gender inequality issues within media. The study was led by Durham University’s Stacey Pope, associate professor in the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, and features MSU’s Allison and Kate Petty, physical activity and well-being manager for England’s University of Leeds. It was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and FIFA Research Scholarship, awarded by the International Centre for Sports Studies and FIFA.
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