The Outer Sanctum: Smart Women Talking Footy

29 / 04 / 2016

The Outer Sanctum Podcast is a place for football stories and passionate footy voices we don’t usually get to hear.  Brought to you by women who watch the Brownlow for the votes, not the red carpet: Emma Race, Kate Seear, Nicole Hayes, Alicia Sometimes, Lucy Race and Felicity Race. This month for Sheilas, Nicole Hayes shares how The Outer Sanctum came to be.

The Outer Sanctum, an all-female podcast, started the way a lot of brilliant ideas start: some smart, passionate, like-minded women got together to talk and laugh – a lot. About life, yes, about families, sure, but mostly, perhaps unexpectedly, about footy. That’s what brought us together, and it’s what became the basis for the first of several collaborations. Alicia Sometimes and I were already editing a book – From the Outer: Footy Like You’ve Never Heard It (Black Inc, 2016), a collection of unlikely stories from diverse voices talking about their relationship with AFL, and I’d written The Whole of My World about a teenage girl’s obsession with footy, so it’s not surprising, given our combined passions, that the idea of working together emerged. What is surprising is how quickly, because, unlike a lot of ‘great ideas’, by the next day the first steps had been taken, equipment purchased, a plan drawn up, diaries aligned and a date was set. There were teething pains, of course – finding quiet, child-free space to record the show, squeezing interviews and meetings into already cluttered lives, not to mention avoiding too much focus on the team we all love – a team so many love to hate – Hawthorn. (I know. Don’t judge us!) But somehow the combination worked, and the results are in.

The Outer Sanctum Podcast features broadcaster, producer, and app developer, Emma Race; business owner and the team’s IT specialist, Felicity Race; business owner and junior footy trainer, Lucy Race; legal academic and lawyer, Dr Kate Seear; Alicia Sometimes and myself, as well as weekly guests who are selected for their ability to bring something new to the conversation around AFL, including, Sam Lane, journalist, commentator and frequently the only woman on several all-male footy shows; Holly Ransom, the youngest ever female director of an AFL club; Dr Kim Toffoletti, an academic, author, passionate footy fan and leading expert in the study of female sports fandom; and Bridget BarkerAFL’s Emerging Woman of the Year, among others.

Outer Sanctum

It’s estimated that approximately 43% of footy fans are women, and right across the fan base there’s enormous diversity across all spectrums, and yet this isn’t being represented in the media or the faces that dominate the footy conversation for so much of the year. In a week when former footballer Jonathan Brown said on breakfast radio that he’d never had to “muzzle” his wife during his career, that footy is “a man’s game” and that wives and girlfriends shouldn’t be allowed to publicly express support for their football partners, the need for better representation is greater than ever. Think back a few weeks to the fallout surrounding the appointment of Bec Maddern, the first female presenter on the The Footy Show. Or the constant frustration expressed by sportswomen about pay disparity along gender lines and the trenchant justifications offered by administrators and male players to protect the status quo. Never has it been more important for diverse voices and ideas to be given a platform. For women to take hold of the microphone.

At The Outer Sanctum, we’re footy fans first – not simply critics. We want the game to be better, not to disappear. To lift it up, rather than bring it down. Every week we ask our guests how their relationship with Australian Rules Football going, and we ask it of ourselves. And as we sit on the brink of a new national AFL women’s league scheduled to commence in 2017 amidst the rising cry for diversity in sport, it feels like we’ve struck a chord.

As of this week, The Outer Sanctum has more than 4000 downloads, an average of 670 per episode. Given that a typical podcast without corporate support might be expected to attract approximately 140 downloads per episode, the popularity of our show has exceeded even our most optimistic expectations.

There’s a rising thirst for diverse voices, even in more traditional cultural spaces like sport, our biggest sport AFL, in particular. The Outer Sanctum is determined to provide a platform for a more thoughtful and representative conversation about this great game, in the hope of helping to lift the discourse and raise the profile of those no less passionate, but somewhat less celebrated in the world of AFL footy.