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Is it time for cycling to scrap its podium girls?

Joe Robinson
2 Feb 2018

As Darts and Formula 1 scrap their walk-on girls, Cyclist lays out the case for cycling to follow suit

The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) announced earlier this week that it would no longer be using walk-on girls to escort players to the oche. Now, bosses in Formula 1 have confirmed that it will be scrapping 'grid girls' as of this season.

While reactions to these decisions have expectedly been mixed, these roles are fastly becoming part of a bygone era in sports that are largely dominated by men.

With the increased scrutiny of the objectification of women in culture now clearly being heard within the realms of sport, it is only a matter of time before questions are asked surrounding the use of podium girls in professional cycling.

Cyclist asks whether now is the time to get rid of cycling's podium girls? 

Firstly, it has to be asked why Darts and Formula 1 made this move to end these age-old tradtions in 2018.

Gender equality has reached unprecedented heights within the last 12 months. Relevations of mass sexual harassment in Hollywood spurred worldwide movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp.

More than ever, the objectification of women is under the microscope and no doubt, the sports of Darts and F1 were beginning to feel the pressure. 

Managing director of Formula 1 released a statement today that read as follows;

'While the practice of employing grid girls has been a staple of Formula 1 grands prix for decades, we feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms. We don't believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula 1 and its fans, old and new, across the world.'

Look at the PDC's rationale for scrapping 'walk-on' girls and it reads largely the same. It appears that after discussions with television broadcasters the use of these women was now deemed outdated and no longer acceptable. 

Formula 1 and Darts have both recognised that in order to be a sport that progresses within the modern world it will have to align themselves to modern values of which the objectification of women is not one.

While many applaud this decision some have groaned at the loss of what they describe as a harmless tradtion that adds 'glamour' to their sport while even some podium girls themselves have criticised the move.

Take PDC walk-on girl Charlotte Wood. Speaking to the BBC, she claims that the loss of this job will cost her 60 per cent of her yearly income and that her rights to do a job that she decided to do have been taken away from her.

The Tour de France podium girls

This has caused such backlash in darts that former PDC World Champion Raymond van Barneveld has even gone as far as creating a petition to reinstate the women with 15,000 already lending their signatures.

Move onto F1 and Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo has called for grid girls to continue calling them 'part of F1's attraction'.

Take a look at the reaction to this decision on social media and in the wider media and it is, as expected, mixed. While many agree with this some cannont understand the end of this 'harmless tradition' calling it a populist move from governing bodies. Although, those voices are mainly male.

Of course, cycling is no stranger to this issue which leads me on to the case of Peter Sagan

In 2013, the now three-time road race World Champion finished second behind Fabian Cancellara at the Tour of Flanders

As Cancellara was given the traditional double kiss from two podiums girls, Sagan reached up and groped podium girl Maja Leye on live television. 

The incident was caught on camera and shocked onlookers with Leye later admitting she considered 'slapping' Sagan as a reaction. What followed was an apology from Sagan to Leye and a debate surrounding the use of podium girls in pro cycling.

Five years later, the debate has somewhat dissipated and podium girls still grace the stage of every major race, still giving victorious riders that famous double kiss.

Five years ago, cycling was not ready to part with this tradition at a point when it seemed appropriate to do so but now it seems that voices are louder than ever.

The decision to end the tradition of podium girls seems a suitable decision for a sport that is trying to move with the modern world, and one that cycling has no choice but to make.

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