Matt Butler: 'Sportswomen' offers fascinating insight – shame about the slot on Sky Sports

View From the Sofa: It was a worthwhile counter to the wall-to-wall blokes usually seen on Sky Sports

There was a short but uncomfortable pause midway through Sportswomen, Sky Sports' new show focusing on, you guessed it, women in sport. Hayley McQueen, the host, had asked her guest in the cafe-cum-studio, Louise Hazel, how female athletes can get better coverage. The question was in the context of a discussion on a piece in a Scottish newspaper saying Fir Park should be "burnt to the ground" to cleanse itself of the Scotland Women's football match against Bosnia.

Hazel, a former heptathlete, said such misguided articles – tongue-in-cheek or otherwise – are "counter-productive" and the best way to change attitudes is to get "more coverage on television".

Which was a valid point. Except Hazel was speaking on a show flying the flag for women's sport... that was broadcast in the dead zone of 10.30am on a Tuesday morning. McQueen changed the direction of the discussion rather quickly.

It was a shame that Sportswomen was shunted into the time slot usually reserved for the umpteenth repeat of Homes Under the Bargain Attic or whatever, because the show was interesting, informative and, at times, hard-hitting. Discounting the argument that if sports channels marketed both genders' throwing, running, kicking and punching as "sport" then we would not have the need for shows like these, this was a worthwhile counter to the wall-to-wall blokes usually seen on Sky.

But swathes of their target audience would not have seen it: according to Sport England figures, women in full-time employment are most likely to play sport. And hence miss Sportswomen.

They would have missed out on a frankly harrowing piece from Jane Dougall on female athletes and their struggles with body image – partly brought about from the pressures of landing sponsorship. Some figures were shocking: a single half a per cent of sports sponsorship money goes to female athletes and Hazel said securing a chunk of that cash "depended on how I looked".

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, who has won more marathons and Paralympic medals than you or I have had hot dinners, even revealed: "I was told I would do better at sponsorship if I had long hair." I can't see Wayne Rooney being told that.

Andy Sutherden, head of sports and global practice director at Hill and Knowlton – billed as a "brand manager" on the show – was brave to show his face, especially after he said that achievements only went so far when it came to sponsorship and that "glamour sells".

Given this pressure, it was sadly no surprise for Dougall to reveal that 45 per cent of female athletes have had some form of eating disorder. To give some perspective, 19 per cent of male athletes have had one.

Allie Outram and Chrissie Wellington, a former cross-country runner and four-time Ironman world champion respectively, had battled with eating disorders. Outram said that at one stage a doctor told her she had only a week to live as her family took her four-and-a-half-stone frame to hospital, while Wellington said her World Championship victories had finally allowed her to love her body – "not in a narcissistic way," she hastily added.

It was eye-opening stuff, which raised a lot of questions – some of which, such as how to change sponsors' outlooks, were discussed between Hazel and McQueen.

The second part of the half-hour show was fluffier, with a piece on the Great Britain curling team – incidentally, the first members of Team GB to be picked for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Who knew they did weight training and had tailored fitness regimes? Well you do now. As did those who happened to be watching telly at 10.30am.

News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Adam Lallana, Juan Cala, Andy Carroll and Cameron Jerome
sportThe latest news and scores
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on TV
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
The North Korean TV advert for Taedonggang beer, that became a YouTube hit
food + drinkAnd what did it take to set up a taste test back in Wiltshire?
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget rest of the year
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit