“Amid swinging cuts to the nation’s largest public broadcaster came the news yesterday that coverage of both the W-League and Women’s National Basketball League will conclude in coming months,” The Guardian said on November 25, “ending thirty-five years of commitment to regular women’s sport coverage on the ABC.”
Australia’s peak women’s sporting body said it feared young female athletes will be left without role models due to the cuts.
Australian Womensport and Recreation Association executive officer Leanne Evans said: “You’d struggle to find much at all in terms of women’s sport on television.
“It’d be a massive disappointment for those athletes, teams and people who support it.”
Lauren Jackson, a star of Australian women's basketball team the Opals, described the ABC's move to axe coverage of the leagues as a “very dark day for women's sport”. The Age reported November 24 that Jackson insisted it could spark a sponsorship and player exodus.
Head of W-League club Canberra United, Heather Reid, said: “I think it's shameful, it's terrible, it's bad for women's sport, but it's also bad for regional and community sport, too.”
Evans said: “It begs the question why cut two women’s leagues when from what we can see so far there’s been no cuts to major national men’s competitions?
“The traditional views of Australian sport have been maintained; it’s very disappointing that women’s sport is still seen as an easy target.”
In a statement, the ABC blamed “declining audience interest” for the decision. But the W-League has recorded significant growth in ratings over the past few seasons.
The Guardian said: “The ABC’s coverage has on several occasions drawn more than 100,000 viewers, with its seasonal average not significantly below this (89,000) ― figures more often than not surpassing audiences for Foxtel’s A-League coverage.”