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Game on: life as an intern with the Melbourne Rebels

Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a professional sports game?

La Trobe student John Tran did, and this curiosity led him to an internship with the Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union Club.

A dream come true

John Tran is in his final year of a Bachelor of Business (Sports Management). As part of this course, students are required to find and complete an internship at a sports club.

When his sports practicum coordinator posted an internship with the Melbourne Rebels on the student noticeboard earlier this year, John, a lifelong sports fan, jumped at the opportunity.

‘I watched a lot of sport as a kid and I always wondered what went on behind the scenes,’ he says.

‘Obviously a lot of people are just focusing on the game, but I’ve learned that there are a lot of things that need to happen for the event to run properly.

‘It’s pretty hectic behind the scenes with everything that needs to be set up and packed down. Among other things, we have to make sure the media are sorted, and that the sponsors’ expectations are being met.

‘As a business, we need to make sure that the sponsors are satisfied with the signage that goes around the stadium and so on.’

While it’s an exciting position for a young sports fan, it’s also a demanding one. Luckily, John was well prepared by his sports practicum coordinator.

‘Before the internship started, we had classes about what to expect, what to do, and how to do it, so that helped a lot. I was also able to put into place a lot of the theory that we learned in sponsorship and events management, two earlier subjects for this course.’

A typical day at the club

In addition to his studies and part-time job, John spends up to three days a week at the club. On a weekday, he’ll be there from 10 am to 5 pm, preparing for game day.

‘We do operational activities, so things like contacting sponsors and making sure they have everything they need,’ he says.

‘We’ve also got to make signs for the locker rooms, so that players know where to go, and signs so officials know where to go, and where to sit, and so on.

‘Then there’s fan activations. For example, there is a Land Rover one where fans come and throw a ball at a target, and we’ve got to make sure that it’s set up in a place where the ball won’t go on the street and is easily collectible. So, I have to use what I’ve learned about OH&S for that!’

This weekday preparation all helps relieve some of the pressure on game days, which are full on. While kick-off is usually in the late evening, John gets to be there behind the scenes much earlier.

‘On game days we’re there from 11 am setting up. We set up, we pack up, we supervise kid’s activities… Timing is critical, so we have our running sheet that says what we need to do and when, and we’re constantly checking things off as we go. It’s a full on, exciting day, and we don’t really get to stop!’

Graduation and beyond

With just one subject to go next semester, the end of John’s degree is well within sight. He hopes his internship with the Melbourne Rebels will be a stepping stone to a graduate position.

‘I think that I will have a lot of connections at the end of this, and I’ve got a lot of experience learning from a professional sports club,’ he says.

John ultimately hopes to use his newfound connections and experience to obtain a job at the end of this year in an events role with a professional club.

‘But just getting the connections and having the experience is the main thing, and this internship has definitely helped me to achieve that.’

Looking to bolster your real-world experience with an internship? Look no further.

Our industry connections make you career ready

What you do at university is important to us.

However, it’s what you do after university that interests us the most. We know that studying is a significant investment, so we’re committed to making sure you graduate ready for work.

With the employment landscape evolving constantly, the best way to make sure we’re teaching the right skills is to go straight to the source. That’s why we work closely with industry to find out what they want in graduates – both right now and in the future.

Developing the degrees industry needs

We’re constantly reinvigorating our courses to prepare you for roles in emerging fields of employment. We work directly with industry to identify skill gaps and develop degrees to address them.

For example, our industry partner Cisco has identified that there are currently a million cybersecurity jobs opening globally, with demand projected to rise in the coming years.

In response to this demand, we’ve developed our new suite of cybersecurity degrees with input from Cisco, Optus, Australia Post, Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Symantec, Atlassian and Cloudera.

Simone Bachmann, Head of Information, Security, Innovation and Culture and Australia Post, says, ‘we need people with problem solving skills, we need innovators, we need people with legal and regulatory skills, we need communicators and educators to help people understand the problem.’ These degrees address the growing need for cybersecurity professionals with interdisciplinary skills.

Our Master of Sport Analytics (developed with leading sports clubs and technology companies), Master of Business Analytics (with 20 per cent of the curriculum taught by industry experts) and Master of Data Science (addressing a data analytics skills shortage) are other examples of our industry relationships preparing students for the future of work.

Future-facing industry partnerships

We’ve established relationships with major organisations to make sure we stay at the forefront of industry developments.

Our partnership with Optus, which focuses on cybersecurity, will result in scholarships and Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities for our students, as well as employment pathways for graduates.

We work closely with a number of sporting clubs, including Melbourne City Football Club, Carlton Football Club, AFL Player’s Association, Bendigo Spirit and IPL Kings XI Punjab to give our students access to work placements as well as research and internship opportunities.

We’re also the only university to offer an accredited art subject at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). As learning partner for the NGV’s summer exhibition, we’ve offered the subject Summer at the NGV for the past four years – in 2017, students were able to study the work of British icon David Hockney.

Preparing you for success with industry insights

Technology is advancing at an incredible rate, which means that many of today’s roles won’t even exist in the future.

It’s our job to prepare you for the roles of the future. We do this by helping you develop the flexibility and transferable skills you need to adapt to the changing market.

We’ve spoken to a number of employers, including PwC, Commonwealth Bank, Alfred Health, Thoughtworks, Pfizer, CSIRO, Melbourne Football Club, Telstra, Bureau of Meteorology, Deloitte, Certified Practicing Accountants and more to identify the core skills and attributes that employers value most highly.

We’ve used these insights to develop Career Ready, a program that supports you to build the attributes employers want. The program includes an app, a dedicated support team, an on-campus recruitment agency, and a range of activities you can participate in to build your skills.

First-hand industry experience

We’re also making sure our students come into contact with industry while they’re still studying.

With our Professors of Practice program, we’re championing a shift in how industry can contribute to education. Our Professors of Practice are industry professionals employed by the university to advise on curriculum, and, in some cases, teach.

Mark Morris, a Professor of Practice in the Department of Accounting, says, ‘I try to provide insights as to what they will find in the workplace wherever I can, because this is exactly the kind of knowledge that can give them an edge to stand out from the crowd.’

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities place students in organisations, giving them the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge in a real industry environment. After graduation, many of our students are employed by their WIL employer.

This post was originally published on the NEST blog.

Panel Event: Better Out Than In Panel Event

La Trobe University, the AFLPA and Beyondblue present research and individual stories of courage at an exclusive panel event aimed at reducing the stigma around discussing men’s mental health.

Moderated by: Nick Dal Santo, 300 game ex-AFL player

Panel: Andrew Thorpe (Beyondblue), Dr Paul O’Halloran (La Trobe University), Jake Edwards (Outside The Locker Room).

Tea and coffee provided at the conclusion of the panel discussion.

Panel Event

Date: Thu. 27 July 2017

Time: 10am – 11:30am

Venue: Odeon Room, La Trobe University, Melbourne Campus, Plenty Road, Melbourne.

Register: Please register via Eventbrite.

Simmons journey takes him from UAE to Vicsport

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Simmons is loving his role as the Events and Administration coordinator at Vicsport.

After living in the United Arab Emirates for most of his childhood, La Trobe Bachelor of Business (Sport Management) graduate Randall Simmons took a chance and moved to Australia’s heartland of sport to pursue a career in the industry.

“I selected La Trobe because of the quality of its Sport Management course, and the opportunity to learn about sport management in the capital of sport was hard to pass up on.”

Gaining expertise with organisations such as Melbourne City Football Club, Carlton Football Club, the Victorian Olympic Council and the North Melbourne Football Club, Simmons made an immediate impact.

Simmons performed duties in a number of roles and across various departments including hospitality, delivering community programs and volunteer training.

“When I moved to Melbourne, I made a conscious decision to get as much sport experience as possible before I graduated.”

“By volunteering in these organisations I was able to gain the experience which most organisations in sport look for and this helped me land a full time role.”

“Sporting organisations look to employ people who have worked in the industry, volunteering is a big box to tick.”

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Randall completed placement at the Carlton Football Club as part of the Sport Management practicum.

The skills Randall gained in these positions assisted him to secure employment as the Events and Administration coordinator at VicSport immediately after his degree.

The La Trobe graduate was among a wave of applicants for the position, including many from the same graduating cohort as his own.  Upon reflection, Randall says it was his volunteering, internships and tailored course work that set him apart from the rest.

“The Bachelor of Business (Sport Management) degree was designed to give us real world experience of what is happening in the industry.”

“From Sport Marketing to Sport Governance, I have been able to take certain aspects from all my subjects and apply it to my role and in my organisation.”

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Randall’s performed duties across a number of departments while volunteering at the Melbourne City Football Club.

By studying a Bachelor of Business (Sport Management), you could work with La Trobe’s network of sporting partners such as the Carlton Football Club, Melbourne Rebels and Melbourne City Football Club.

This post was originally published on the La Trobe University Intern Diaries Blog.

La Trobe Business School partners for Sport Development and Peace

Dr Emma Sherry

LBS Associate Professor Emma Sherry recently participated in the inaugural symposium on Sport for Development and Peace, hosted by the University of Illinois as an invited speaker and Town Hall panelist. The symposium, titled Forming Partnerships and Linkages in Sport for Development and Peace: Considerations, Tensions, and Strategies, brought together international academics and sport for development experts and practitioners to discuss how sport, specifically through the creation and nurturing of key partnerships, can be used to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The purpose of the symposium was to bring together scholars, practitioners and students engaged in sport for development and peace (SDP) to create a dialogue about forming and sustaining partnerships and linkages between SDP initiatives and other sectors, the challenges facing partnership development, and strategies to overcome these challenges. The symposium was hosted by the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism (RST) at the University of Illinois, the Sport+Development Lab (SDL), and Play for Change. The SDL is home to faculty and graduate students researching the intersection of sport and development. Play for Change is a registered student organization (RSO) focused on involving undergraduate and graduate students in actionable projects that use sport, recreation, and tourism for social change.

The sport for development and peace (SDP) field has grown exponentially in recent years, with more and more organizations, practitioners, and academics around the world embracing the possible contribution that sport can make to development agendas. SDP can occur at the individual, community, and societal levels. It can be defined as the use of sport as an engine for development through intercultural exchange, conflict resolution and peace building, community building, social inclusion, or programming for interpersonal development or health.

An emerging line of commentary in SDP concerns the nature of partnerships with various industry sectors. Without effective and sustainable partnerships, SDP organizations and scholars cannot viably engage in the field to effect social change; partnerships are the life blood of SDP organizations. However, many challenges and barriers exist that inhibit effective partnerships and linkages. From overcoming power dynamics, to misaligned goals and objectives, challenges can prevent organizations from establishing long-term partnerships and carrying out their missions. Given the international significance of partnerships and collaborations in SDP, much more conversation is needed about the nature of partnerships, their challenges, and effective strategies for forming and sustaining them.

The symposium brought together SDP experts, including Dr Sherry, to share presentations drawing on an original paper written for this symposium. Presenters provided a state of the field synopsis regarding partnerships with a specific sector (for example, health, community organisations, education or national and international bodies), outline challenges for developing and sustaining them, and then propose strategies for addressing these challenges.

In addition to the symposium, there were also two evening public events. On the first night, Dr. John Sugden, one of the world’s foremost experts in SDP and partnership development, provided a keynote address on the history and development of SDP, its current state of the field, and thoughts on developing and sustaining partnerships and linkages. The second night featured a town hall meeting with the symposium presenters focused on the power of sport to work for social good and change, and the challenges associated with doing so.

Dr Sherry noted that although the two-day symposium provided a full schedule for all attendees, the opportunity for international scholars in this field to spend time together to deeply discuss key research, theory-building and opportunities for research collaboration was invaluable. The opportunity for networking and discussion was extended through a very active use of Twitter by those organizing and attending (#sport4change2017) which extended the reach of the symposium to those unable to attend in person. Dr Sherry hopes that this is the first of many such events, and was delighted to be invited to present and share her research in the SDP field.

La Trobe Business School Sport Management student Rebecca Privitelli ready to tackle on and off-field career

La Trobe Business School Sport Management student, Rebecca Privitelli, is rising to prominence throughout Melbourne’s Northern suburbs by cashing in on a huge month in women’s sport.

The 21 year old will be competing in the inaugural AFLW competition in 2017, after being selected by Carlton with pick 142 in the national draft on October 12th this year.

She rounded out her exciting month by being named the first ever head coach of the Northern Knights Football Club women’s team on October 21st.

During this busy period Privitelli still found the time to continue her studies and complete her 120 hours placement at Ikon Park through La Trobe’s partnership with the Carlton Football club.

Speaking to La Trobe Sport earlier this year, Privitelli said growing up ‘she always had a passion for the sport’.

“My biggest dream was to become one of the first women to play in the AFL,” she said. “My love for the sport developed as I started playing and coaching, however I felt like there was an aspect of the game I was yet to be involved in.”

For Privitelli, this turned out to be working in the code she loved and getting vital exposure to the sport industry through her internship at Carlton.

Privitelli gets active during placement.

“Once I completed high school, I received my first job in football which primarily focused on development of the game at the grassroots level.  It was through this opportunity that I realised that a degree in Sports Management was a way I could transform my passion for AFL into a career in the industry.”

Choosing where to complete that Sports Management degree was not a decision Privitelli took lightly, hoping to balance her busy lifestyle while maximising her opportunities to become career-ready post degree.

“La Trobe stood out to me as the clear choice as they had the most extensive options for Sports Management.  The university also appealed to me as they were able to support my commitments as a footballer through the La Trobe Elite Athlete Program.”

“As I neared the end of my second year at La Trobe, placement options were at the forefront of my mind and when I was given the chance to undertake my placement at the Carlton Football Club I knew it was the moment I had been waiting for.”

“I was lucky to be offered a role at the club as a Community Outreach Officer along with nine other La Trobe students.”

The students’ responsibilities as Community Outreach Officers included being responsible for creating authentic experiences for fans and creating a sense of belonging for the community by delivering the Community and Diversity programs.

Privitelli (front left) with fellow students, Carlton Staff and Sport Management co-ordinator Pam Kappelides at Ikon Park.

“I’ve had the opportunity to assist a range of people both internal and external to the club, building my network of industry professionals in the process.”

This network includes students and teachers within the Northern corridor, people within communities from different cultural backgrounds and people involved in the women’s AFL academy.”

Privitelli feels that the experience gained throughout the internship, along with the knowledge gained from her degree has equipped her to to start a successful career in the sport industry.

“The experience gained throughout my placement has significantly enhanced my communication and leadership skills.”

“Everything I have learnt throughout my placement in conjunction with the knowledge gained from my degree at La Trobe University leaves me feeling like I can enter the workforce with confidence.”

“I can now complete my degree with the belief that I am well positioned to tackle any challenge that comes my way.”

This article was originally published on the La Trobe University internships blog.

Cleaning up sport: conflicts of interest at the top | Space for Transparency

 

By Catherine Ordway

The tension between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has never been greater than this year, when WADA recommended a ban on all Russian athletes from participating in the Rio Olympic Games, only to have the IOC reject that position. This points to a fundamental challenge for the relationship between the two organisations. As WADA is half run and funded by the IOC, its independence can be questioned.

In a vote to maintain the status quo, 75 year-old Sir Craig Reedie, an IOC member since 1994, was re-elected on 20 November as WADA President for a further three year term. Many of WADA’s decision-makers appear not to see a conflict in their dual/multiple roles. As IOC member and former WADA President, Dick Pound put it: “Tell me what the conflict of interest is between your capacity as an IOC member espousing clean, doping-free sport and sitting as representative of that organisation on [the] foundation board of WADA, which has the same objective.”

The fact that both WADA and the IOC have as a common goal the desire to achieve ‘drug free’ sport, does not negate the inherent conflict that arises in the space where the aims differ.

Despite creating WADA with inbuilt conflicts, the IOC now realises that WADA needs to change. The Declaration of the 5th Olympic Summit of 8 October recognised the fundamental philosophical tension within international sport on WADA’s role. Recommendation 3 emphasises that: “WADA [is] to strengthen its governance structure” and “[must] Ensure compliance with the highest ethical standards in particular with regard to the resolution of conflicts of interests and integrity.”

The Declaration went on to indicate that WADA should both be better resourced to operate independently and have greater powers. Hopefully this is also an indication that the IOC may now be willing to relinquish control and allow for greater independence.

Organisational objective conflicts

The IOC owns the Olympic Games and receives much of its revenue from the broadcasting and sponsorship of these events. It’s in the IOC’s interest to have the best athletes from all member nations there to keep the Games relevant and competitive. The proposal to ban Russia created a difficult dilemma for the IOC.

The challenge created when common interests raise a potential conflict is also demonstrated in WADA’s appointment of Dick Pound as the lead investigator in the first “independent” report into international athletics (IAAF) and Russia’s state sponsored doping. For the report to be ‘independent’, Pound’s current and former positions should have made him ineligible for this role.

In the most recent demonstration of the challenge posed, IOC members Gian-Franco Kasper and Dr. Ugur Erdender currently sit on both the committees that considered whether the athletes nominated by the Russian Olympic Committee should be barred from competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, namely the IOC and WADA Executive Boards.

The IOC’s decision not to accept WADA’s recommendation on Russia’s eligibility sends the message that Olympic goals, including supporting one of the IOC’s strongest members, are prioritised over the aims of WADA. At the meeting of the broader IOC membership, only the former British skeleton athlete, and WADA Foundation member, Adam Pengilly, voted to support WADA’s recommendation, while Reedie abstained.

Composition of WADA’s Decision-Making Bodies

WADA’s mission is to: “promote and coordinate at [the] international level the fight against doping in sport in all its forms”.  To strengthen WADA’s governance and remove the conflicts between the different stakeholders, as recommended by the IOC, requires rewriting WADA’s constitutional documents to allow for the appointment of independent decision-makers.

As it stands now, WADA’s constitution provides for a two-tiered decision making system: the large Foundation Board made up of representatives from both governments and the Olympic movement, and a sub-set of that group sits as the Executive Committee. Most of the policy-makers sitting on WADA’s Executive Committee are also on its decision-making body, the Foundation Board. In order for the Foundation Board to truly play an oversight role, there should not be an overlap of personnel.

To have any claim to ‘independence’, WADA must also sever the tie between receipt of funding, and eligibility for a seat at the WADA board table.

As detailed elsewhere, this bind creates a number of issues for WADA, including: the danger of WADA being manipulated or held hostage by the dominant funder (see reference 1 below) and wasting resources on solving the struggles and disagreements between stakeholders with competing agendas (see reference 2 below).

The separation will help to diminish, but not completely avoid, the issues around funding bodies influencing the way WADA operates. How ‘independence’ is defined and achieved is a challenge that needs to be worked through in consultation with all the major stakeholders. Athletes have the ultimate vested interest in ensuring that sport is played fairly, and that ‘innocent’ athletes are supported and protected (see reference 3 below).

The current financial and rights model must be turned on its head to give athletes the ultimate say on how sport is governed and policed. Inverting the power pyramid will open up dialogue around ensuring greater justice and economic benefits for athletes. A more representative WADA would see a broad, inclusive group of skilled people reflecting the demographics of the community, including athlete alliancesanti-doping specialists, scientists, professional team sport employers and sponsors.

Opening up the nomination process would also provide the opportunity for other organisations with an interest in supporting ‘clean’ sport, such as the UN Office for Drugs and Crime and the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, to increase their involvement.  There is also capacity to expand UNESCO’s role in monitoring the implementation of the anti-doping convention.

An independent Foundation Board and Executive Committee will “strengthen [WADA’s] governance structure” by creating an additional internal accountability mechanism.  The challenge will be to then develop a fair, inclusive process so the views of athletes can be more comprehensively reflected, replacing the current Athlete Commission model.

The IOC’s plea for the “resolution of conflicts of interests and integrity” can be answered by ensuring that WADA’s decision-making bodies are composed of a diverse range of independent thinkers who are answerable to the athletes, not representative stakeholders.  Managed carefully, having experts from a range of disciplines available to set WADA’s strategic direction will ensure that anti-doping serves those most impacted by it.

References

1. For more on capture, see P. Sabatier, ‘Social Movements and Regulatory Agencies: Toward a More Adequate – and Less Pessimistic – Theory of “Clientele Capture”’ (1975) 6 Policy Sciences 301; M. E. Levine and J. L. Forrence, ‘Regulatory Capture, Public Interest, and the Public Agenda: Toward a Synthesis’ (1990) 6 Journal of Law, Economics & Organization 167.

2. U. Wagner, ‘The World Anti-Doping Agency: Constructing a Hybrid Organisation in Permanent Stress (Dis)Order?’ (2009) 1 International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics 183, 196.

3. S. Moston and T. Engelberg, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent (and Then Still Guilty)” Report, James Cook University, 15 November 2016

This post was originally published on the Transparency International Blog.

LBS Sport Management students hit goals at International Festival of Hockey

By Emma Sherry

La Trobe University is proud to be the number one University for sport in Australia. Two key undergraduate programs within the La Trobe sport course offerings are delivered by LBS, and are the Bachelor of Business (Sport Management) at our Melbourne campus and the Bachelor of Business (Sport Development and Management) at our Bendigo campus.  A third key program, at the postgraduate level and delivered by LBS, is the Master of Management (Sport Management).

Sport is a rapidly growing and significant global industry offering a range of career opportunities. Our degrees are designed and delivered in collaboration with industry professionals. These courses combine business foundations with essential sport-specific knowledge and skills. We offer valuable placement and network opportunities and exposure to potential areas of employment.

In the undergraduate degrees, in addition to work integrated learning experiences through our Sport Practicum subject, sport management students at both campuses are provided with opportunities to volunteer at a variety of sport and active recreation events and activities during their time as a student. Students have volunteered at Melbourne City, Melbourne Rebels and most recently with Hockey Australia for the International Festival of Hockey. Students are required to apply formally for these opportunities and through this process develop their CV writing and interview experience. This process also ensures that the sport organisations receive the very best student candidates for these valuable volunteer placements.

Two students, Tianna (Bendigo) and Sam (Bundoora) (pictured above) have been volunteering with Hockey Australia this year, culminating in the festival held in Bendigo on November 19th. Ben Hartung, the General Manager – Hockey, noted that “Sam and Tianna, our two brilliant interns, are working at the International Festival of Hockey … They are both playing keys roles in the organisation of the Festival components in Melbourne and Bendigo and they have been embraced by the entire Hockey Australia team. We are very lucky to have them as part of our team”.

The International Festival of Hockey is a fun-filled family event that saw Australia’s home favourites, the iconic Kookaburras and Hockeyroos, take on some of their biggest international rivals, India, Malaysia and New Zealand. Hot off the back of their Olympic Games campaign, the Australian men’s team – the Kookaburras – host India, Malaysia and New Zealand in a four nations competition in Melbourne before taking on India in two further test matches in Bendigo. Also playing in Australia for the first time since the Olympics, the Hockeyroos – the women’s team – go head-to-head against India in three test matches in Melbourne.

The sport management programs at La Trobe University pride ourselves on creating engaged and work-ready graduates. By providing more opportunities for students, outside of their formal education, the program ensure that our students are best placed to build their CV during their time with us and to gain employment on completion of their studies.

 

A New Beginning for Women in Sport?

By Merryn Sherwood

2015 was declared a watershed year for women in sport. The Matildas barnstorming run at the 2015 Women’s FIFA World Cup. The Australian Diamonds triumphant win in the Netball World Cup in front of a world-record crowd. The Southern Stars held the No.1 ranking for all three forms of the game. Michelle Payne won the Melbourne Cup. However, the doubters questioned whether it would stick.

But in 2016 the momentum continued. The highest-rating Saturday night AFL game in Melbourne was the women’s exhibition match at Whitten Oval. Cricket NSW announced that the Breakers would be the first domestic Australian women’s team to be fully professional. In 2017, Australia will welcome a new Australian netball league with a salary cap of $675,000 for 10 players, and a brand new AFL league for women.

But is the rise of women’s sport opportunity, or opportunism? Are sports organisations coming around to the idea that they should provide equal opportunities for female athletes, or is it simply good business sense to do so? This was the topic of a panel at this year’s Sports Writers Festival. The consensus was it’s probably a bit of both.

A panel that included broadcaster and documentary maker Angela Pippos, former SBS Zela editor Danielle Warby, Age sports editor Chloe Saltau and freelance journalist Karen Lyon – hosted by Lynn Haultain – discussed several reasons why women’s sport was booming.

These included that more women are playing more sport than ever before, and within that contact has been normalised and even admired. Alongside this, there the suggestion that sports organisations have realised that there is an audience for women’s sport.

Put simply the key triggers appear to be that more women are playing sport, many of them in traditionally male dominated fields, and more sports fans are enjoying watching them. Saltau noted that this led to a situation where there is an “arms race” for female athletes. Major sporting codes suddenly aren’t just providing opportunities for women to play, they have been trying to outbid each other to become the sport of choice for women at the elite level. Suddenly, there has never been more value in women’s sport.

But as a sports journalism lecturer and sports media researcher, one of the most interesting points in the panel for me was the recognition that the sports media narrative around women’s sport is changing. Historically sports media has trivialised women and coverage was often sexualised.

Some of my previous research in this area found though that Australian journalists and editors had started to question these news values. For example, a journalist said this about stories on women’s sport:

“You know, a lot of the editorial decisions you see here are made on instinct, thinking we want to see Sharapova in a pretty dress, we want to see those sorts of images and those sorts of stories in the paper but, is that what people are genuinely interested in?”

The consensus in the room at the Sports Writers Festival would suggest the landscape has moved forward again. In fact, the panel noted that “that Sam Newman way” of seeing the world is shrinking. Instead, we are seeing thoughtful stories about players with thoroughly interesting backgrounds, such as Moana Hope and Susan Alberti.

There is still be work to done. The panel noted an important step in adding legitimacy to coverage of women’s sport is to include female commentators and experts in it. But generally, there was a feeling that the ongoing professionalism of women’s sport is starting to be reflected in its coverage.

As Angela Pippos aptly noted on the panel, “I’ve spent a few months thinking wow, I’m going to see change in my lifetime.” While Pippos was at the time talking about the chance for women to earn living wages playing sport, it’s also applicable to the representation of female athletes in the media.

You can listen to the entire panel, here.

 

Merryn Sherwood is a member of the Centre for Sport and Social Impact, and coordinates the Sports Journalism major in the Bachelor of Media and Communication. La Trobe University is a partner of the Sports Writers Festival.

 

Olympics Explainer: intersex athletes at the Rio 2016 Games

Emma Sherry

By Emma Sherry

In the lead-up to the 800m women’s final at the recent Rio Olympic Games, much of the lead up discussion focused on the South African athlete Caster Semenya. The history of sex verification in sport has been long and for many traumatic, with international sport organisations policing women with “masculine” features, subjecting them to a barrage of blood test, scans and physical examinations. However in sport, the traditional gender binary of male and female has been challenged and the right of intersex athletes to compete on the world stage has now been established by the Court of Arbitration of Sport.

What is intersex? “Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. Differences may be found in anatomy or genetics, however intersex anatomy doesn’t always show up at birth. Sometimes a person isn’t found to have intersex anatomy until she or he reaches the age of puberty, or finds himself an infertile adult, or dies of old age and is autopsied. Some people live and die with intersex anatomy without anyone (including themselves) ever knowing (Source: www.isna.org)


Caster Semenya’s case, and those of other athletes such as India’s Dutee Chand has been strongly fought over a number of years, with the international governing body of athletics (IAAF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The primary source of disagreement between the athletes, genetic and endocrine specialists, and the sport organisations is the inability for the science to draw a “line in the sand” between a male and female athlete.

In July 2015, the Court of Arbitration for Sport found that the IAAF policy regarding levels of testosterone in female athletes was not justified, noting: “While the evidence indicates that higher levels of naturally occurring testosterone may increase athletic performance, the Panel is not satisfied that the degree of that advantage is more significant than the advantage derived from the numerous other variables which the parties acknowledge also affect female athletic performance: for example, nutrition, access to specialist training facilities and coaching and other genetic and biological variations.”. The decision of the court ordered that the rules to be shelved until the IAAF could provide further evidence that could show there was a clear difference between male and female testosterone levels, and how big an advantage the extra testosterone gave hyperandrogenic women. This decision subsequently saw the IOC also change its gender policy, noting that it would not regulate women’s natural testosterone levels until the issue is resolved via further scientific research.

These athletes, many of who for the first time discover their gender differences via competition testing, are under substantial pressure and criticism during the Games, with Semenya reportedly under armed guard in the Olympic Village following fears for her safety. This criticism from fans and competitors has however rallied support from her country people, with South African’s rallying to defend their athletics star.

She did exceptionally well in the final, and won gold. But regardless of the result, she will forever remembered at these games for her bravery and strength in continuing to compete in a sport that she loves against all odds.

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