Women’s World Cup 2019: An analysis of British and American media

By Matthew Watkinson

Sub-editor: Jacob Panons

Media analysis of the Women’s World Cup throughout both American and British media outlets showed that whilst it is rapidly progressing in terms of coverage of women’s football, the media still focus on individual moments and favour creating talking points around celebrations for example, instead of the tactical elements of the game and achievements such as progressing to the World Cup final in the case of the US Women’s National Team.

After England were beaten in the semi-finals of the tournament by the USWNT, the media of both US and UK failed to focus on the on-field analysis and instead Alex Morgan’s tea drinking celebration was the central point of the match analysis which should have focused on the USWNT’s progression to the World Cup final.

The American media outlets were slightly more in sync with talking about the actual game, however in a match report tweeted by ABC7 Eyewitness News, they lead their assessment of the match with, “Alex Morgan celebrated her go-ahead goal with a cheeky tea sipping celebration”. This frames the football with less importance and it focuses on the individualism of the female personalities over the sporting achievements of the team as a whole. It revolves around the femininity and personality of Alex Morgan rather than the goal she scored which very few people will remember in comparison to the celebration.

A notable part of searching for the media perspective of the tournament by looking through Twitter, was that the tweets from the general public included positive and negative views towards the women’s game. There were tweets which sexualised the female athletes, but there were also ‘memes’ that would also be seen across the men’s game which could be seen as progressive as it shows the women’s game can also create an atmosphere of rivalry between teams and the want to win. There was a sense of ‘them vs us’ from fans that is seen across most competitive sports.

Renee Richards, Birrell and Cole (1994) said, “While the media appear simply to report what happened, they actively construct news through frames, values, and conventions.” Relating that framework to the case of the reporting of the Women’s World Cup, it shows that both British and American media are constructing a narrative that’s focal point strays away from the sporting efforts on the pitch and more on individual matters such as celebrations. The ABC7 report describing the celebration as ‘cheeky’ distracts from the on-field achievement of scoring a goal in a World Cup semi-final and it is language that is not associated with football.

Some media outlets pushed for more progressive reporting that focused on the in-game happenings. VAVEL Women’s Football were keen to dismiss writing about celebrations and individual talking points and they reported on the match in a way that focused on technical analysis that would be seen in a typical report of a men’s game. By doing this it aims to construct a report of the women’s game by assessing a team performance over the individual.

The differences between the way British and American media outlets portrayed their reporting and coverage of the Women’s World Cup were minimal and it seemed that the overall attitude of media outlets coverage of women’s football was to focus on individuals. The attention was largely on that of Alex Morgan’s celebration and her USWNT teammate Megan Rapinoe, where the focus was away from their footballing ability. The reason for such similarities across the reporting of the Women’s World Cup is due to the media outlets, both British and American, being the same people. The media editors are most likely to be white men and this is why comparatively they relay the same style and tone when delivering coverage on women’s football.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Author: Liondartois

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