Mystery Columnist: Lack of Solheim coverage a shameNovember, 2013
What a shame that so few sports fans witnessed our Solheim Cup heroics
It was great to see such a fantastic European performance at the Solheim Cup in September, although if we relied on media beyond Radio 5 Live or subscription TV it would be difficult to know that the event had taken place.
Let alone that Europe had won the trophy for the first time on American soil.
What a contrast to the equivalent men’s event, the Ryder Cup, where each player’s breakfast menu is up for debate 24-7!
In the concluding small hours I was very struck by how delighted the 5 Live commentary team of Iain Carter, Maureen Madill and Karen Stupples were with the quality of the golf and the way that the players managed the pressure.
Carter, who watches golf day in, day out, was in raptures over the performance of Charley Hull, and rightly so.
But his delight was so genuine it is just a shame that the national media didn’t pick up the story and report how well a group of young European women had played.
So well in fact that Lotta Neumann’s side posted a record victory in the competition.
How can the next generation be encouraged to take up the game when golf, like so many women’s sports, is hidden from view of the general public?
Supporting the European Solheim Cup team made me think again about the golf club set-up here in the UK.
In an idle moment I began to wonder if courses and club structures would ever just be set up for golf and golfers, rather than focused on the gender divisions.
In some countries in Europe the game is structured around ability rather than gender so instead of men’s and ladies tees, the tees are based on playing handicap and playing ability. Gender and age division is less important. Participants play from a tee relevant to their golfing ability and players of the same ability – men, women, young and old – play against one another from the same tee.
Developing the game and continuing to make it an attractive proposition to young people is the responsibility of all those playing today This kind of restructuring might contribute to challenging the UK’s current gendered construction of the game and lead towards women’s achievement getting the same media attention as men. How very sensible I hear you say?
Well, our European partners do just that. Subscription television is a great service if you can afford it but if you live in a family without access how do you learn about the game and get to know and admire the role models and ambassadors of the sport?
This is not just an issue for women’s golf but for many sports that once would have made appearances on free-to-view television but are now only shown on subscription channels.
The funding that comes from the TV rights may be much needed by the sports governing bodies but is the outcome taking the game even further away from the next generation of would-be participants?
The clock will not be turned back and, if anything, more and more sport will only be available on subscription TV.
A further challenge to the game’s administrators will be attracting the next generation of players.
A quick look, (data protection allowing), down the date-of-birth column on a membership spreadsheet at any club will quickly illustrate that this is a pressing issue.
Developing the game and continuing to make it an attractive proposition to young people is the responsibility of all those playing today.