Women in sport: Maria Voropajeva

Elana Shapiro speaks to Maria Vorapajeva about her career at ITV, the 2018 World Cup and media coverage of women's sport.

Elana Shapiro
6th March 2021
During the summer of 2018 B.C (Before Covid), life was good. We watched Love Island, drank at pubs, gathered in the park, and deluded ourselves into thinking that England were going to win the World Cup as we watched Tripper score *that* free kick, singing “It’s Coming Home” with unbridled joy.

Maria Voropajeva, a Newcastle University graduate who now works as a production coordinator for ITV Sport, tells me it was the best sporting event that she’s been involved with. Over a hundred ITV employees travelled over to Russia and stayed there for around two months as they prepared and delivered the coverage of a tournament that enraptured a nation. Maria said it was like being on a “summer camp”.

Maria at the 2018 World Cup

As a production coordinator, Maria can be involved with “everything from budgeting to graphics to crewing to contracts to logistics to working with talentand as a speaker of English, Finnish, and Russian, international tournaments allow Maria to utilize these remarkable capabilities. She tells me of how she communicated often with local authorities and offered translation assistance across departments, whilst in Russia. She is currently preparing for the Euros and is grateful for something to look forward to, following the recent disruption to sport.

I ask Maria whether media coverage is something that she sees improving for women’s sport over the next few years, but she is not optimistic, explaining, “Companies are still far more reluctant to buy the rights to women’s fixtures because there isn’t as much interest in the women’s side of some sports but these sports are then not able to raise their level and attract more fans because they don’t have investment or coverage, maybe media companies need to take the first step. If you look at the recent postponement of the Women’s Six Nations, for which there was no justification, as the men’s tournament still went ahead, it’s clear that there is still a lot of gender disparity.”

Maria, a keen athletics and tennis fan, does note that some sports like athletic and tennis have a long-standing tradition of celebrating and investing in their female athletes, far more than is the case in other sports. Victoria Azarenka, the Belarusian tennis player, is somebody that Maria especially admires due to the way that she came back after her pregnancy saying, “I think it’s really impressive and I love that is something which is increasingly common”. She also loves Katerina Johnson-Thompson and Nafissatou Thiam and the fierce rivalry that they provide, “Rivalries are so important for raising the level of the game and they’re always great to see in women’s sport. The way that they push each other makes the sport better”.

Nevertheless,  Covid-19 has further set back women's sport and it is not the only area where it will have a lasting impact. Virtual crowd noise has become a common feature of live sport, as broadcasters attempt to recreate the atmosphere of crowds in empty stadiums. Whilst I think we will all be glad when these noises are no longer necessary, Maria believes that other concepts introduced because of the Coronavirus, like virtual interviews may be here to stay, with coaches and clubs always looking for ways to protect their players.

Tomorrow I speak to Paralympian, Susannah Rodgers.

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