An open letter to SBS Zela

Dear SBS Zela

This morning, I watched our Australian women’s football team, the Matildas, defeated in the quarter finals by Brazil in the most heartbreaking of circumstances – a penalty shootout.  In the end, the score was 7-6 and as I watched these brave women sink to their knees and weep, I wept along with them.  For players like Michelle Heyman, Lisa de Vanna, Samantha Kerr, Lydia Williams and Caitlin Foord, this Olympics campaign meant everything and it has truly been a joy to watch this team grow in confidence and in ability this year.

The reason I share this story with you is because, without you, my interest in this team would certainly not be at the level it is today.  I probably would not have been given the opportunity to fall in love with the stories of these women and the courage it has taken for them to reach this point in the Olympics.

SBS Zela, I do not exaggerate when I say that this year you changed my life.  Not only did you change my life, but you became a very present part of my life.  I would visit you at least once a day, whether it was for the latest information, for a smile or just to read quality writing.  So for that, I thank you.

I started Ladies who League 3 years ago because I did not think enough women were getting involved in conversations about sport.  I have always been a proud and fierce advocate for women having the opportunity to be involved in rugby league however they like. 

However, something else has happened this year.  I have become a proud and fierce advocate for women in sport and this was partly thanks to you.

When you burst onto the scene at the beginning of this year, there was finally a place for female sports writers to shine and to write about the topics most important to them – whether it to be introducing the world to one of their favourite female athletes, sexism or doping, finally there was a place were women were absolutely the stars, both as writers and as players.

I became so much more aware and understanding of issues facing female athletes, whether that be the sacrifices that women need to make in order to play the sports they love, the impact of juggling family, a job or study and issues of sexism and discrimination in sport. 

This year, because of SBS Zela I fell in love with so many female athletes, women who I otherwise would never have been introduced to.  Women like Carmen Marton who is currently competing at her third Olympics in taekwondo or Caroline Buchanan – also competing at the Olympics this year in BMX Riding.  At Zela it did not matter how big or small your sport was, every female athlete had the opportunity to be profiled, recognised and celebrated.

When I found out the news that SBS had decided to discontinue with you after the Olympics I was shattered.  No longer would there be a dedicated place for me to keep up with all of women’s sport, to meet new athletes and to stand up and tell the world that women’s sport matters.

Not only will some athletes be lost as a result, but so will a thriving community which has given me so many friends and introduced me to so many fierce advocates of women in sport.  I am privileged to have been able to meet and work with women like Erin Riley, Leah Cwikel, Danielle Warby, Megan Hustwaite, Ann Odong and Lucy Zelic.  Not only are these women colleagues, but they are also friends.    

I am so disappointed that just because you did not generate ‘clicks’, that SBS did not see your value and how important you are, particularly in an environment where there is more momentum behind women in sport than ever before – moves are being made in the AFL, NRL, netball and rugby 7’s and I am so sad that you won’t be there to share the stories of these incredible athletes as they continue to grow in confidence and profile.

I promise that whatever happens I will continue to be a fierce and proud advocate for women in sport because women are worth celebrating.  Sport is sport and I will continue to celebrate women in sport until we are on equal footing with the men.

SBS Zela, thank you for everything you did and for all the joy you brought me.  Thank you to all the talented women who loved you and helped you grow into the thriving community you were – you will be missed.

And, if you are as disappointed as I am to see SBS Zela cut, then sign the petition and make your voices heard:

https://www.change.org/p/save-sbs-zela-support-women-s-sport

Love,

Mary K and Ladies who League xxx