Her Sport putting women’s sport firmly centre stage
Niamh Tallon identified a gaping void and set up a website to provide quality news and content
Ayeisha McFerran, Ireland’s hockey goalkeeper, celebrates qualifying for the Olympic Games after victory over Canada. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
If you’re a women in sports fan, you know the struggle of looking for news and basic information surrounding your favourite team or athlete.
Trust us, the struggle is real, but for one sports fan and former athlete, that wasn’t good enough. Step forward Niamh Tallon of Her Sport (www.hersport.ie), a platform solely dedicated to women in sports news, amassing over 30,000 followers across all social media platforms.
“From grassroots right up to the elite level, there is a big gap in the media coverage of women’s sports. Just six per cent of coverage for sports goes to women. We wanted to close that gap and give them the opportunity they deserve and all the credit they’re due. That’s what we’re doing. . . From young, right up to people in the 60s and 70s, and whoever needs that inspiration, that’s what we’re here to do,” explains Tallon.
'Sixty-four per cent of the international medals won in 2019 were by women. You can’t say that women’s sport isn’t good'
“I think a bit of it was frustration and that there aren’t that many stories, but also there’s less opportunity for women in sports like the sponsorship opportunities, the recognition, that type of thing.
“Sometimes, I would read articles where the women are the footnote of the story, and they may have had better results than men; this happens even at an international competition. That’s not good enough. If you’ve somebody that’s performing, you need to give them credit, and I feel like the onus is on the media to deliver that on behalf of the athletes, and I had to show others that it can be done.”
The whole idea started in 2018 as just a side gig, plugging large holes in a market saturated with fan forums, online platforms and everyone assuming they’re journalists. But Her Sport was different from the start. The platform started out by having the elite athletes follow them on social media, boosting their profile and opening up a gateway of opportunities.
Covid-19 provided a unique opportunity to connect with the athletes. Like the rest of us, athletes were at home, tipping away with training and were only too keen to talk to people to stay sane and motivated. The takeovers included various athletes, from luge contender Elsa Desmond, Irish hockey player Ayeisha McFerran, Mayo football star Sarah Rowe and Irish diver Clare Cryan. It provided an interactive platform for these athletes, fans could openly ask questions, athletes could open up and potentially boost their profile and perhaps even seek sponsorship.
“What I noticed for other organisations was, which I obviously find quite disappointing, when Covid hit, and sport was called off, there was very little about women’s sports in other publications. They were still writing about men’s sports.
“It’s like, why are you not writing about women’s sport as well? Why are you not interviewing some of these athletes who are available? They’re ready to talk, they want to talk? You’re still getting stories from the men’s side. The women didn’t go under a rock, they’re still there. I thought it was a unique opportunity, and I’ve really used it. We really grew our audience at that time. We just put a lot of work in over the past year to keep pushing forward and to grow it.”
Covid may have eradicated some of the great strides made in women’s sports, from sponsorship to coverage and marketing athletes, but the stats don’t lie. Despite four per cent of sport’s online coverage and three per cent of sport’s print coverage being dedicated to women’s sport, the results on the track and field tell a different story.
“Sixty-four per cent of the international medals won in 2019 were by women. You can’t say that women’s sport isn’t good. You can’t say that people don’t care and women are not delivering results. They are delivering results and they are having huge success.
“If you take the financial hit for a while, you will build the audience, and then you will get people to invest in the sports. From the publication side of things, I think people should be making more effort to cover women’s sport because the stories are there.
“We’re focused on changing the minds of people that we can and introducing them to women’s sport. People that are open to it, and you find a lot of young girls and boys are interested in sport, interested in finding out more about athletes, and they can come on a journey with you and they can be converted to become someone that is a real advocate of women’s sport.
'What we want to do is get to as many eyes and ears as possible and get more people involved in our community'
“Our written content is quite strong, and I think we’ve cultivated that, and something that we want to focus on for 2021 is our video content. Our podcasts are really growing into that space. That’s been great. We have interviews up there, and then we have the It’s Just Sport podcast there as well, talking about the weekly news updates on the podcast, and then also we do an interview exclusive with an athlete or somebody in the women’s sport space every Friday.”
Despite knowing 2021 will be a tricky year and given companies are probably refraining from sponsorship deals, Niamh believes she has opportunities like no other.
“From a PR and marketing perspective, we have pretty much grown organically, which is quite cool. We want to capitalise on video and podcast content and use that space a little bit more. Build it with a loyal audience. There’s been good growth for the podcast, and it’s just been in action for a couple of weeks.
“If we’re able to put a bit of financial backing behind that, we’ll really be able to push it far and wide. What we want to do is get to as many eyes and ears as possible and get more people involved in our community so that we have a huge community that really support women’s sport and are really interested in women’s sport.”