Why are ‘minority’ sports ignored by the media?

In a world of tough media competition, and immense pressures for the best pictures, the shocking headlines and the most views, clicks, or sales, it’s no surprise that media outlets worldwide have been forced into a frenzy of panic, sometimes leaving quality and variety further down their priority list than statistics.

Sports news has, as per, been bustling in recent weeks. Brendan Rogers left Liverpool, Dick Advocaat left Sunderland, England were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup; all stories covered by newspapers, TV and radio stations across the country, as well as being smeared across social media to ensure none should be missed.

But something was missed. Something was forgotten.

On October 4, Golden Horn the English Derby winner beat hot favourite Treve at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s biggest race, and one which Treve already had two wins for under his belt. Golden Horn was trained by John Gosden, and ridden by Frankie Dettori, undoubtedly one of the biggest names in the sport.

Should Golden Horns victory have been publicised more? Photo: Flickr via Paul

Should Golden Horns victory have been publicised more? Photo: Flickr via Paul

Despite this being not only a huge achievement, but also extremely newsworthy, many failed to report this triumph. This got me thinking: how can we ensure a fair and balanced account of sports and sportspeople if majority sports are almost certain to dominate the headlines?

Andy Cairns, the Executive Editor at Sky Sports News answered this question simply when he visited the University of Lincoln last week.

He said: “It is indeed a challenge to make majority and minority sports equal.

“Sky Sports do a lot of research and into what the viewers like so we can provide for what the viewers want. We have even tracked people’s eyeballs to see what the viewer is looking at on the screen.

“Data has shown that sports such as horse racing don’t rate as highly with viewers as other sports do.”

Andy Cairns believe the sports news reported reflects what the viewers want. Photo: Flickr via Ross G. Strachan

Andy Cairns believe the sports news reported reflects what the viewers want. (Photo: Ross G. Strachan via Flickr)

Although this ensures viewers are fed the content that they want, it all means some sports are left out in the cold.

Dean Christopher, from Lincoln Snooker Club said snooker is an example of one of these sports, but there was a time when snooker was a lot bigger in the media.

He said: “The game became really popular in the 1970’s and 80’s which is when I started playing, and at that time football was struggling itself.

“Snooker is one of those sports that fits well with colour television and a player called Alex Higgins played in a fast and entertaining style which got a lot of people interested in the game.

“We didn’t have things like computers, we went out and did things, so it was one of those games that took off in a big way at that time.”

But Dean also acknowledges that changes in society have impacted the interest in the sport.

He said: “Interest has declined in the sport for a number of reasons and one of the main reason is that young people have so many options of things to do these days with computer games, Facebook, DVDs and people don’t tend to get out and do many things.

“The smoking ban was also a big hit for the snooker clubs as people would go out and drink and smoke in these kind of clubs and that was the culture so this has meant a lot of the older players have drifted away from the game.

“Because of the money that’s pumped into bigger sports and the large followings, they are so dominant on our TV screens – I can’t see there ever being a balance in reporting sport.”

Will Fry, the President of the University of Lincoln Football Team said there’s a reason football gets so much press coverage.

He said: “It’s the national sport, it’s the richest sport, and it’s the sport that so many people are emotionally invested in, be it through playing or supporting a club – it’s more of a way of life for some people.

“People can relate to football because everyone, at some stage of their life, has kicked a football.

“If you took the gambling away from horse racing, for example, it wouldn’t be as exciting whereas if you took the betting away from football you still have the football to get the enjoyment from.

“I do think it’s very important that sports get fair coverage, however I think it’s equally important that the needs of the reader are met, as you can’t sell papers if it doesn’t contain news people actually want to read.”