Alison Smirnoff is a video producer and digital media professional with more than eight years experience in the sporting industry. During her time at the Carlton Football Club, she created CFC TV the Club’s official online video channel, and also helped create the Club’s social media profile and its first social media strategy. In late 2014 Alison founded Change Her Game, a positive online movement to raise the profile of women in sport. Alison’s passion lies in documentary-style storytelling. She believes everyone has a story to tell and that these stories play an influential role in community and fan engagement. Alison loves to shape the world through her video work.
As part of a series exploring women in the media supporting women in sport, I chatted to Alison about her motivation behind creating Change her Game and the plans she has to change the world!
Why did you decide to start your own website?
It’s hard to pick out just one reason, it was probably a mixture of things. It was perhaps in part a reaction to working in professional men’s sport for several years and also having strong personal beliefs in gender equality generally. I do recall having a bit of a lightbulb moment last year when I attended the AFL Women’s Exhibition match. I witnessed superb athletes playing footy the way it’s meant to be played and I came away from the game with the overwhelming feeling that more people need to experience what I’d just experienced. More people needed to know about women’s sport. It occurred to me that I could bring my experience in video production and social media to share the inspiring stories of female athletes and build a bigger audience.
What made you decide to start your own website, as opposed to working with an existing organisation, website or sport?
Again, it was in part a reaction to having worked for an AFL club. The football media machine can be relentless and you’re really tied to the fortunes of the team in terms of the content that you produce. I really liked the idea of creating something that I had control of rather than the opposite. Also, my main objective with Change Her Game is to tell female athlete’s stories, using video as the vehicle. To my knowledge, there weren’t any other sites that existed in women’s sport that were purely about video content.
Were you aware of other women’s sport websites out there? Who?
Yes, I was aware of a few. Sportette, Sporting Sheilas, Sportzgirlz, The Women’s Game and Girls Play Footy were probably the main ones. They’re all doing great things and each offer something unique. Sometimes I think we should all join forces though and create a mega online movement for women’s sport in Australia. On an international level, espnW was probably my main go-to site.
How important is it for you to be able to set your own editorial direction?
For me, it’s incredibly important. Change Her Game is more about storytelling than being a news service. So, having the freedom to set the agenda is paramount.
How important do you think it is for women to create their own media?
I think it’s vital, especially in terms of changing and owning the conversation about women’s sport. Mainstream sports media tends to be dominated by male voices, so the more that women can frame the conversation the better. Personal branding for athletes is so important as well and with the tools and technology at our fingertips these days there’s no reason not to generate your own media.
The mainstream media often tells us ‘No one’ in interested in women’s sport. What do you say to that?
I say; “Rubbish!” Change Her Game has been in existence for a short time, but the response so far, particularly from women, has been incredible. I really believe that women want to see more women’s sport, but you need to make it accessible. The general public tend to not realise what they’re missing unless you show it to them first, so the mainstream media has a role to play there.
So what do you think is needed to take women’s sport to the next level?
Women’s sports websites and athletes need to keep doing what they’re doing and setting their own agenda, but at some point the mainstream media (and sponsors) needs to take a leap of faith. We’re miles behind other countries, like the UK and even the US, but it won’t take much to catch up. Recent announcements about coverage of W-League and WBBL are great starting points, but we need to build on it. Visibility is so crucial. The more something is seen & heard, the more it is accepted. I often cite tennis as the example here; no one thinks twice about Serena Williams battling Maria Sharapova on centre court at Wimbledon. We have grown up watching women play tennis, I want the next generation to grow up watching women play all kinds of sports.
What are your long-terms plans for your website?
In the near future I want to keep sharing the stories of women in sport, but the long-term ambition is to mobilise popular support and demand for women’s sport in Australia and to inspire and make it easier for the next generation of women. I’d like to help create a world where female athletes get equal media coverage, sponsorship and funding and where talent and drive are supported above all else. I believe that sport can really inspire broader social change. When we see gender equity in sport, we will see gender equity in all areas of society.
Read More from Women in Sports Media
This interview is a part of a series on women in sports media. Read more:
- Candice Freeman, Sportzgirlz