home Women in Sport Media A Love Letter to the Outer Sanctum

A Love Letter to the Outer Sanctum

Please indulge us a little #WomenInSport love-fest as we take this chance to honour the groundbreakers, history makers… our Sanctum sisters. The Outer Sanctum Podcast.

When the tweet dropped last week that the Outer Sanctum podcast would not return for the 2023 AFLM Season, the collective #WomenInSport and women’s sports loving twittersphere shared a gasp of shock and sadness.

I too released a deep breath at the news. It was a release filled with a little with sadness, of course, but it was mostly profound pride that caused the tears to well in the corner of my eyes. 

I felt the power of women who I so admire, who have done so much work and who have supported so many, take a collective step back and build a narrative that stepping back is not only ok, but it is to be celebrated.

I remember discovering the Outer Sanctum in my podcast feed in 2016. The ‘recommendation’ algorithms must have already had me pegged as I was probably searching some combination of ‘women’, ‘sport’, ‘footy’, and ‘fandom’ every couple of days hoping to find… well… it’s hard to say what I was hoping to find. I guess I wanted something… different. I just didn’t know what it was until it found me, and it hit me how desperate I was for some more inclusive and diverse sports content.

And the Outer Sanctum could not have come at a better time for me. In 2016 I was working in the football industry and was two years into my PhD looking at representations of women who are fans of elite men’s sport. I was in the thick of trying to understand my place in the sports industry and learn what was needed to make the fan culture a more welcoming and inclusive space.

And here was a group of amazing women. Emma Race, Lucy Race, Felicity Race, Nicole Hayes, Alicia Sometimes, Kate Seear and later Tess Armstrong, Shelley Ware, Julia Chiera and Rana Hussain. Women who were fans of Australian rules football, in my ears every week, discussing the game I love, in ways I’d never heard. Sharing their full fan-selves and love of footy but also challenging aspects of the game I’d struggled to form my own thoughts and feelings about over many years as I tried to navigate my own identity as a footy fan.

Since their first podcast, they’ve challenged the status quo of sports media, creating a safe space for sports conversations that were not being had but needed attention. They’ve called out unacceptable behaviour, advocated, celebrated and covered the AFLW competition since its inception, used their platform to highlight the connections sport has to societal issues like racism, homophobia, pay parity, climate change, women’s reproductive health and mental health just to name a few. They’ve handed over the mic to more voices, staying true to their mantra ‘nothing about us, without us’. 

They also had a whole lotta fun and that is a key reason why we all fell in love with them. They never made you feel like just a fan if you bumped into them at the footy or an event, or interacted with them online. You were always a friend.

Siren Sport owes a great deal of its existence to the Outer Sanctum team. From the days where some of the co-founders were freelance AFLW writers and connecting with the pod’s members in the outer, we benefited from their encouragement, amplification and friendship to build what we have today.

As a collective, we’ve had Siren co-founders experience the opportunities they’ve extended to the sector like the women in sport broadcast pathway program, Making the Call. We’ve been guests on the podcast, we’ve collaborated on events and produced academic research to shine a light on the alternative media space.

For me personally, the impact the Outer Sanctum team have had on my career journey as a writer and academic is immeasurable. This group of wonderful women has helped me find my place in the outer, as well as show me the ways the sporting experience can and should be different, and the role I can play in driving that change through my work and research.

But we don’t lose this. If anything, this is just another chapter as we move the women in sport conversation forward. In taking the step back from the podcast, the women of the Outer Sanctum have given us so much more than by continuing the show. That might sound strange, considering how much we will miss their nuanced dissection of the issues plaguing the sports we love, their passion to drive change, their banter and silliness, their unapologetic approach to talking about sport differently. But in taking a breather, in claiming their time and emotional labour back, in still continuing to champion and support others from the sidelines, the Outer Sanctum are showing us that it’s ok to stop. It’s powerful to stop.

For those of us in the independent and alternative media space that covers women’s sport, it is unbelievably tough. But we navigate this through our passion to make a change, through the camaraderie of the excellent like-minded people working and creating content alongside us and the hope that what we do can make an impact. And we are all making an impact. 

I think the most important thing we’ve been able to learn from the Outer Sanctum is that the best way to challenge the status quo of sports media is to open as many doors and bring as many people along the journey as we can to add more voices and more diverse conversations to our sporting landscape. And those of us who have connected with the Outer Sanctum and felt that support now feel empowered to do that for others. 

Success is in our stories, in our shared lived experiences, in our support networks. Stopping a podcast or a blog or a column or tiktok or an instagram page doesn’t change that. So I hope our fellow content creators and advocates can take strength in the knowledge that everything you create that shares one story, that amplifies one voice, is making a difference, and you are not failing if you want to, need to, have a break or walk away. 

This space is hard work! And, if we’re honest, mostly unpaid and emotionally draining and risky work. And we can own this space by working within it in ways that serve us best. Having these conversations and sharing those experiences is another way for us to continue to champion, support and celebrate each other as we all work in our different ways to drive change.

Thank you Emma, Lucy, Felicity, Nicole, Alicia, Kate, Tess, Shelley, Julia and Rana for continuing to champion our community by proudly, and powerfully, calling time.

We’re all here to support you for what’s next and we will see you in the outer, always.

Go footy!

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