More than “family-friendly” viewing

Sledging encouraged, but swearing? Cop a fine. Picture: Twitter/Sydney Sixers

Fuck. We need to talk.

The cricket season has arrived, despite the Tasmanian weather at times suggesting otherwise. At present there is no soccer or AFLW to clash with the WBBL. So I’m finally getting my value for money with my Kayo Sports subscription and watching as many games as I can muster.

The Hobart Hurricanes is my home team, and I have a massive soft spot for the star studded Sydney Sixers. Naturally I had to watch the two match up in the second round of WBBL fixtures.

T20 cricket is a unique beast when compared with traditional sporting formats. Commercialism is at its core. There’s no doubt that it has been successful with the bright uniforms, fireworks and pop music blaring at every interval.

In addition broadcasters have direct access to players during the game, with one player from each team often wearing a microphone.

During the Hurricanes and Sixers match, it was Ash Gardner who wore the fuzzy piece of technology on her shirt collar. 

Around midway through the innings, Gardner had bowled to Nicola Carey and was around the wickets ready for the ball to be thrown back to the bowler’s end after Carey had driven it down the ground.

The microphone wasn’t turned off. 

“We’re just listening in,” the commentators said.

“Oh fuck me,” the all rounder said as the ball was fired past her fingers.

That resulted in Gardner being docked 20 percent of her match day fee.

Surely that’s a load of fucking rubbish right?

On the side of the player and the team, I get why they didn’t appeal the decision. It would’ve been an uphill battle and just a bit messy. Drawing a balance of what broadcasters should do to respect players during play and player expectations while wearing the microphone would’ve been a nightmare of ethics.

So I’m going to explain why the penalty was rubbish.

Firstly, it’s cricket. Cricket idolises sledging for some unknown reason that I’ve never felt comfortable with. During WBBL broadcasts they’ve pointed out players who sledge “well”, and the type of remarks you would throw at different players. There’s even been the Indian contingent coming out with well-quoted comments of sledging in Hindi to their fellow country-women. 

Secondly and most importantly, this is sport. Swear words drop freely during play, during team talks and everywhere in between. It’s well ingrained in sport. How often is the camera on an athlete, clearly yelling out a loud “FUCK”, but the mics are off and the commentators laugh it off? 

I still clearly remember England v Germany third place play off at Canada 2015. The drone camera found itself in the middle of the team huddle at the start of extra time. Steph Houghton yelled something along the lines of “let’s fucking go”. 

Swearing crosses all boundaries of sport.

Is it because this happened in women’s sport? Shit I hope not but also fear it could be. Either way it’s left a sense of “oh women shouldn’t swear, we need to penalise that”.

Looking at the positives, women’s sport is slowly becoming less “family-friendly” and more “prime time”. 

There’s a slow evolution of the sole women’s sports narrative being of players for “young boys and girls” to aspire to, and instead showing them in a multi-facet narrative of being powerful, smart athletes, often making political statements.

Women playing any sport, particularly those that are traditionally male, is a political statement in itself. That needs to be, and is being, talked about.

The path to making the women’s game more than family-friendly viewing was taken when two Matildas matches had 8pm kick offs on home soil. No “after school time, let’s make it 5pm kick off”. Instead, it was prime time. Bless channel 10 for its advertisement of the games and not pulling the broadcaster’s trump card of squeezing the match into an afternoon time slot.

There are bright sides. We are moving forward.

But fuck.

When players are penalised for swearing on TV in the middle of play… It makes me mad.

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