Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Is use of promotional girls sexist or harmless?

Belfast model boss brands use of promotional girls to sell sport 'sexist and outdated'

By Claire McNeilly

A Northern Ireland model agency boss has said using scantily-clad young women to promote sport is outdated, after darts' professional body said it will no longer use walk-on girls after pressure from broadcasters and fans.

Women have accompanied players onto the stage for some years - a trend that has been regularly criticised - and the PDC has decided to take decisive action, starting at this weekend's Masters in Milton Keynes.

A PDC spokesperson said: "We regularly review all aspects of our events and this move has been made following feedback from our host broadcasters."

Belfast Fashionweek chief Cathy Martin - who herself worked as a so-called 'ring girl' at boxing matches when she was a 21-year-old university student - also said it is about time that industries "across the board" stopped using sex "to sell any sport".

"The alcohol industry started clamping down on sexy girls doing drinks promotions a long time ago, so it's right and proper that other industries should follow suit," she said.

"There's no harm in a welcoming, bubbly face, be that male or female, to welcome people, but I don't think it should be the whole sexy girl thing.

"It's very sexist and very outdated."

Reacting to the PDC's revelation that it would no longer endorse walk-on girls, an ITV spokesperson said: "The decision was taken in consultation with ITV and we fully endorse this move."

Former model and successful businesswoman Ms Martin said despite her thoughts about ring girls, she had made "some of her best friends for life while doing those kind of jobs".

"I can't say I was craving the attention of all the guys who were clapping and jeering around the ring and I did have some unwelcome advances from older men on the couple of times that I did do it," she recalled.

"But I did enjoy it, it was good craic.

"At that time I was doing lots of promotional work, lots of promotional modelling and I met some of my best friends who I'm still friends with and see now 25 years later and none of us are any the worse for wear for it."

And Ms Martin, whose company CMPR Talent supplies hostesses for a number of events, added: "That kind of work back in those days definitely gave me a good grounding for getting into marketing and PR and the wider world of media, just because of the connections it opened up at that time."

Darts world number one Michael van Gerwen last year told a Dutch newspaper that he thought the tradition should end.

He said: "The PDC wants more people to see it as a sport.

"It does not interest me (walk-on girls). It is just a sport."

The move has triggered a petition to reinstate the girls.

On Friday night it had received more than 3,000 signatures and was backed by former world champion Raymond van Barneveld. "I will really miss the girls! For me they are a part of the darts," he wrote.

The PDC's move is likely to increase pressure on other sports, such as boxing and F1, to review their use of ring and grid girls.

Ms Martin (43), a mother-of-one, said her primary objection to the use of young women in sports promotion centred on how they were instructed to behave in the role.

"I disagree with how the girls are dressed, recruited, presented and how they're briefed to walk and appear - be that in darts, F1 or boxing," she said.

"They were definitely there for aesthetic reasons, as opposed to anything else.

"It's sexist and that's wrong."

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, however, walk-on girl Charlotte Wood defended her choice of job, saying: "I feel like if I'm being told I can't do this job, then my rights are being taken away."

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