Tag Archives: BBC

Time to end the tennis fashion show

To say that the last fortnight has been unpredictable is an understatement. The UK voted for Brexit and Prime Minister David Cameron subsequently resigned. He will be succeeded by either Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom meaning that the UK will have its second woman Prime Minister. While at Euro 2016 England were humiliated by Iceland causing manager Roy Hodgson to resign while in contrast Wales had an amazing run to the Semi Finals and it took the genius of Cristiano Ronaldo to end their dream.

But it is nice to know that even in this crazy fortnight some things never change. Serena Williams reached yet another Wimbledon Final crushing her Russian opponent Elena Vesnina 6-2 6-0 in 48 minutes the shortest Grand Slam semi final this century. Predictably this mismatch caused the UK press to criticise the fact that women players get equal pay to men players at Wimbledon. Even BBC Sport’s Twitter account got in on the act tweeting “Her match lasted just 48 minutes…but Serena Williams says female players deserve equal pay”.Twitter user Nikita (@kyrptobanana) pointed out that when Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic won matches easily the BBC just mentioned that the players had won easily they did not imply that the male players did not deserve their prize money. BBC sport subsequently deleted the tweet but the damage had been done. And the BBC are meant to be progressive at least by UK media standards…

Now I’ve mentioned the equal pay issue before (in posts “The lesson from history that proves sexist Moore wrong” and “How to end tennis equal pay arguments”) but there are a couple of issues about this year’s Wimbledon besides the equal pay debate that shows that although tennis is more gender equal than other sports it is still a long way from true gender equality.

One example is ticket prices for the men’s final and the women’s final. If you want to buy a ticket for this year’s men’s singles final it will set you back £175. If you want a ticket for the women’s singles final you will only need to pay £145. Now as Eileen McDonagh and Laura Pappano point out (in “Playing with the boys, pages 239-240) tennis is by no means unique in charging more to watch men play than women play. But in the case of football, cricket, rugby and basketball the higher charges can be justified by the fact that demand for tickets to see men play is higher than to see women play so the price is set accordingly. But at Wimbledon both men’s and women’s finals could fill Centre Court several times over so there is no market logic for the price difference. Nor does the fact that the men play best of five sets and the women play the best of three justify the difference. Just because the men play best of five does not mean their match will necessarily last longer. The men’s final could end say 6-3 6-2 6-4 and the women’s could end say 7-5 6-7 8-6. In that hypothetical scenario the women’s final could last longer but no one would say the women should get paid more. The length of a match is a red herring.

Another example of sexism in tennis is so taken for granted that no one notices it. The men wear shorts while the women wear dresses or short skirts that shows off the women players underwear allows men to ogle them and hinders their athletic performance. For example at this year’s Wimbledon the clothing company Nike showed off what the Daily Telegraph called “super short baby-doll dresses”. Swedish player Rebecca Peterson said the dress would distract her by flying up when she was serving. Ridiculous – and the men don’t wear outfits like this! Peterson raises a serious point about how these outfits can hinder a player’s performance. When players are serving they like to carry a spare ball with them in case they need one for a second serve. No problem for the male players who just put the spare ball in the pocket of their shorts. Women can’t do this as dresses and skirts don’t have pockets. They have to put them up their underwear giving men another excuse to stare at them. Tennis is one of the few sports where the male and female outfits are different from each other. In football, cricket, rugby and basketball the male and female uniforms are the same. Both male baseball and female softball players wear the same uniforms. Field hockey is the only other sport where the men wear shorts and the women wear skirts but at least the skirts in field hockey are not as short as they are in tennis.

There is no reason – apart from sexism and tradition – why women tennis players cannot wear shorts. Women often practice in shorts and some women – most notably Victoria Azarenka – have worn shorts in matches. If women tennis players played matches in shorts they would be making a statement that they are equal to men and that they are elite athletes not sex objects there to be gawped at by leering men.

Unfortunately the women are not being helped by their own governing body. You would think that the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) would be keen to promote their players as elite athletes not sex symbols. And you would be wrong. The WTA are actually running a best dressed player award at this year’s Wimbledon. Needless to say there is not a best dressed man award. Wimbledon is a tennis tournament not a catwalk. The women are not there to look good and be gawped at by men they are there to win tennis matches. It is time for unisex tennis outfits. It is time for grender equality. It is time to end the tennis fashion show. In fact it should have ended long before now.

Not finished on a double

Lion & Unicorn

Every Christmas and New Year at Alexandra Palace there is a world darts championship, this year’s having started last week and running until 3 January. Then a week later, at Lakeside Country Club in Surrey, there’s another one.

Admittedly the latter is so drained of prestige that even the BBC can afford the television rights (for this year at least), but it’s a world championship nonetheless, with players from Lithuania and New Zealand, and finalists from as far afield as Dorset and Cambridgeshire.

The split between the two codes of the sport, like similar fissures in rugby, tennis and, of course, chess (not to mention the proliferation of governing bodies in boxing), was all about money: namely, the lack thereof for the players, and the indifference thereto of the administrators.

The administrator in this case was Olly Croft, a mutton-chopped slate tycoon…

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Its time for football managers – and the press – to grow up

So the new Premier League football season starts on Saturday. But the season hasn’t started and already there is a sour taste in the mouth. One of the main features of Sunday’s pre season Community Shield match between Arsenal and Chelsea was yet another whinge a thon between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho culminating in their failure to shake hands at the end of Arsenal’s 1-0 victory. This feud has a tiringly long history with Mourinho calling Wenger a “voyeur” back in 2005 and the two men nearly coming to blows during a game at Stanford Bridge last year being the lowlights. Mourinho is 52 years old and Wenger 65 but you wouldn’t know it from their behaviour. I suspect two three years olds would behave in a more mature way towards each other and it is about time they grew up. Perhaps a six month ban from doing their jobs might do the trick.

But this is not the first managerial feud in football history. There has been Mourinho v Rafael Benitez – which flared up again last week even though Benitez is not even in this country – Mourinho v Manuel Pellegrini (notice a pattern here?) and in the past there was Sir Alex Ferguson v Kevin Keegan, Ferguson v Wemger, Ferguson v Mourinho, Ferguson v Benitez(another pattern emerging!). This is nothing new – managerial feuds in the UK can be traced back to the early 1970s and the feud between the two “big beasts” of management in that era – Don Revie and Brian Clough who even had a 30 minute live TV debate in 1974 when Clough got sacked from Leeds a mere 44 days after succeeding Revie in the job – but it has gotten beyond a joke. Time to grow up.

To be fair the managers are not the only villains here. The people really to blame are the UK press a  lot of whom in my opinion are not interested in football at all and only care about the off field stuff – transfer gossip managerial spats etc – and as a result the papers are full of this stuff rather than the actual game. Another problem is that managers have to talk to the press far too often – before every game after every game seemingly every day. Personally I am sick of them and when ever the awful Sky Sports News (an oxymoron if ever there was one) says they are going to a manager’s press conference I switch channels. Time for a change. If I was in charge of football all press conferences would be scrapped. This would mean that managerial feuds would not be made public as they would not talk to the press and the journalists would have to do some work for a change. You know actually thinking for themselves instead of getting quotes from managers spoon fed to them like babies. At the very least the press and TV interviews should be voluntary. Everybody goes on about freedom of speech. But shouldn’t there also be a freedom not to speak?

The cutting down – or banning – of press interviews might also have two desirable side effects. First with less – or no – interviews to report the UK press might be forced to cover both foreign men’s football and women’s football which are both woefully under covered by our sexist and xenophobic press. Secondly the banning of post match interviews would lead to less “referee bashing”. A lot of criticism of referees comes from upset managers giving interviews at the end of a game when emotions are still raw and people when they are angry say things in the heat of the moment that they don’t mean (I know I do). The FA keep saying they want referees to be respected. Banning the post match interview would reduce criticism of referees “at a stoke” – to quote ex UK Prime Minister Edward Heath.

Another beef I have with the UK press is that they get into football matches for free. Why on earth should they?. No one else does. If a fan wants to watch their team in action at the ground he/she has to pay. Sky Sports, BT Sport and the BBC don’t get into games for free. They have to pay millions of pounds for the privilege. If fans want to watch football on TV they have to pay monthly subscriptions to both Sky and BT Sport. Even to watch the popular “Match Of the Day” highlights show on free-to-air BBC 1 they have to pay a licence fee. Radio too has to pay to be able to cover the games. Why should newspapers be different? Answer: they shouldn’t be. All newspapers should have to pay for the right to get into games – say £200 a year for national papers and £100 a year for the local ones. They should also be ordered to cover women’s football and – in the case of the nationals – foreign football – far more than they currently do. The press may howl they give football publicity. And they do. But so do TV and radio. And they pay up willingly.

All this I am afraid is wishful thinking. No doubt during the season we will get the usual feuds between moaning managers encouraged by a lazy press who don’t then have to write about the game on the pitch – which should be their job  – or soil themselves by covering women’s football and foreign football – which could fill the gaps left by the  moaning managers . But I live in hope that one day there will be a “tipping point” and football fans will become fed up with grown men behaving like cry babies and our gutter press egging them on and  instead demand more coverage of the action on the pitch plus foreign and women’s football – and force our sexist and xenophobic football press out of the 1970s  and into the 21st century.