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University of Derby Creates Scholarships for Aspiring Female Sports Journalists


The University of Derby seeks to combat the gender gap in sports journalism through three tuition-free scholarships of £27,750 for semi-professional women football players who wish to study Football Journalism. This provides a great opportunity for players to gain experience while they still compete.

“A lot of women’s players have considered becoming a journalist at the end of their career, but if they can study journalism while they’re actually playing, then so much the better,” broadcast journalist Jacqui Oatley said.

The University offers a football journalism degree that launched only two years ago, where students can get researching and producing experience for print, radio, and TV stories. This year, students went to Holland, where they reported on the Women’s Euro 2017 and interviewed England’s Women Head Coach Mark Sampson.

The Ewe Rams, an amateur football club, currently play in the third tier and intend to bid for a place in the new semi-professional second tier of the Women’s Super League (WSL) when applications open up to non-WSL clubs in March, according to The Guardian. The University will partner with Derby County for these scholarships and hopes this partnership will strengthen Derby’s bid, thus attracting WSL players to their team. Derby is the only university with a football journalism degree in the UK. Through this major, students have worked with Gareth Southgate, Jacqui Oatley, Henry Winter, and Nigel Clough.

Men still outnumber women in the media overall, but especially in sports journalism. About 90 percent of sports journalists are white or male. The gap has not narrowed in recent years – Meredith Vieira was the first woman to ever host Olympic Sports coverage in 2014. In comparison to other sports networks, ESPN hires the most women – 23 of 35 women surveyed in this report worked for ESPN. Compared to data in 2010, the number of female sports columnists dropped from 9.9 to 9.7 percent, and sports editors from 9.6 to 6.3 percent. The British journalism industry specifically is 55 percent male, according to The Guardian.

Senior lecturer Peter Lansley developed these new scholarships after his superiors challenged him to increase the number of women signing up for the degree. He considered his connections with the Derby County Ladies and saw a great opportunity for both women football players and aspiring journalists.

“We believe the scholarships, alongside our course, will give more women the platform they need to develop into the world of sports journalism while also driving up standards of women’s football at the University and supporting our local club’s bid for WSL status,” Lansley said about the Football Journalism course.

Out of 15 students surveyed, 100 percent were pleased with the program. In a video promoting the scholarship, MBE Ex-Arsenal player Kelly Smith described the program’s benefits.

“The potential to have a scholarship and to have it paid for and also study and then play at a decent level I think is a great idea,” Smith said.

Through this new degree, Derby has taken initiative to help close the gender gap in sports journalism. Other universities around the world can follow its example and develop more programs or scholarships that will help increase the number of female sports journalists.

Featured Image by Julian Carvajal on Flickr

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