Saturday 15 July 2023, 01:00

Our Game Media Programme to leave lasting legacy for women and non-binary people

  • Media Programme created to support five-year legacy project

  • Ten emerging young journalists and photographers selected for inaugural intake

  • One journalist and one photographer selected from each Australian host city

When the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ kicks-off on Thursday 20 July, there will be millions of fans across the world watching, inspired by the women in action on the pitch. In the media tribunes however, women and non-binary persons make up the minority of sports media professionals. The Our Game Women & Non-Binary Persons in Media Programme – part of a wider five-year legacy strategy aligned to the tournament - was therefore created to address this under-representation, aiming to build capacity in women’s leadership, and shape the future of Australian sport by fostering a more inclusive and welcoming culture for all. “Many women find it difficult to gain media roles whether it be photography, communications, or digital media, because they don't have the experience. The numbers have highlighted there are not enough women in media and not enough diversity. So that is what we have sought to address” said Sarah Walsh, Head of Women's Football, Women's World Cup Legacy & Inclusion at Football Australia.

Program Mentor, Sam Lewis, says that more women and non-binary people in football media is crucial for the sport to truly represent everyone in Australia. “More diverse voices from different backgrounds, with different experiences is critical if we want football to evolve. Otherwise, the same voices tell the same stories over and over.” The programme saw an inaugural intake of ten women and non-binary people looking to make a career in media and connects with them mentors and industry professionals to learn and grow in a supportive environment. This year’s participants have already covered A-League games, FIFA Trophy Tour events, Unity Pitch events and will also have access to group stage matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™. The programme has already seen positive benefits for Football Australia with several participants brought on to work for the organisation.

Sarai Bareman, FIFA's Chief Women's Football Officer and Sarah Walsh, Football Australia’s Head of Women’s Football and Women’s World Cup: Legacy and Inclusion.

“We've been able to scale our workforce with fantastic new talent. Our work is now richer in terms of our photography and our storytelling thanks to these fantastic women and their experience,” said Walsh. “Bringing this kind of diversity into the business is helping us to change the way we think. We are the most multicultural game and most diverse in terms of gender/sexuality. Having a workforce that reflects that will help us deliver richer and more authentic content to those communities.” Through partnerships with industry leaders Getty and ABC, plus mentors such as Lewis, the ten aspiring young journalists and photographers are getting a chance to fast-track their way into the industry by building their experience and connections.

Sam Lewis - Our Game Women & Non-Binary Persons in Media Programme mentor

For mentor Lewis, the opportunity to give guidance, feedback and advice to the participants will allow them to flourish. “One of the big things that I struggled with in my early days was just knowing who people were and trying to create introductions to the people I needed to speak to for certain opportunities,” she said. “As well as opening doorways, a key component for these participants is gaining the self-confidence to pitch stories to editors and to trust their own voice. That's why this programme is important: it allows these young writers to start believing that they do have something important to say.” The programme is designed to act as a blueprint that can be followed by other departments in Football Australia and inspire their member federations and other bodies such as the Australian Professional Leagues to use the programme as a template for initiatives of their own.

Maya Thompson - Our Game Women & Non-Binary Persons in Media Programme participant

Maya Thompson, a budding photographer from South Australia, has dreams of being a professional sports photographer when she finishes her studies. Workshops with Getty have provided hands-on opportunities, such as being flown to international matches to be pitch-side with a mentor. “With the Matildas so successful now and with increased visibility, it means every kid in Australia can dream to be a professional footballer,” said Thompson. “I want to be a part of the growth of females in media so we can achieve the same thing: just as girls can dream to be Matildas, young girls will be able to look up to us and aspire to be in football media.” On the written side of the programme, Annabel Martin is an emerging journalist from New South Wales. An Australian U-20 representative who has turned to a career in media, this programme will help her expediate her rise in the industry. “The programme has allowed me to immerse myself in a variety of different types of writing, has given me a supportive space to develop a lot more confidence, and re-affirmed that writing is my passion and what I want to want to be doing with my life,” said Martin.

One of the biggest benefits for Martin has been the opportunity to network in press boxes. On one occasion, after speaking with the editor of KeepUp, one of Australia’s leading football websites, she soon found herself published on the platform. Just like Thompson, Martin feels that this programme is bigger than simply her own writing career. “Reading stories about the sport inspired me to play the game of football, so if this programme can get more stories about women’s football out there, it will have the long-term benefit of introducing more players to the sport.” The Our Game Women & Non-Binary Persons in Media Programme will shortly add another ten participants to the programme to bring a total of 20 people fast-tracked into the industry. In the future, the goal is that players and coaches won’t be the only women television viewers will see. Women and non-binary people will be presenting games. Fans will read stories written by women and non-binary people and be inspired by photographs taken by women and non-binary people. In this way, the programme will create a true legacy for football and football media in Australia.