Saturday Serve

Ladies from the Lingerie Football League - Easts players KK, Theresa, Bryn and Kyle.

Ladies from the Lingerie Football League - Easts players KK, Theresa, Bryn and Kyle.

Just when women's sport is on the verge of taking a positive step in this country, along comes the Seven Network to deliver a blow where it hurts the most.

It's not called the Lingerie Football League any more - given the more classy title of the Legends Football League - but the skimpy outfits remain the same.

One of the sport's highest profile players, Chloe Butler.

One of the sport's highest profile players, Chloe Butler. Photo: Getty Images

And it's here in Australia.

Not on a small scale, but the bra and panties costumes are going where female sport has never gone before … high-definition coverage on free-to-air television.

The 7 mate channel will show the competition, including Queanbeyan's Kelly Goodwin in the NSW team, to capitalise on its target male audience. If blokes want to watch women run around on the football field wearing very little that's their choice.

Queanbeyan's Kelly Goodwin.

Queanbeyan's Kelly Goodwin. Photo: Andrew Johnston

But it's a kick in the guts to the enormous number of talented female athletes in this country, and shows the only way to earn mainstream coverage is by flaunting sex appeal.

I was fortunate enough to be at the AIS Awards on Thursday night to see Kim Crow and Caroline Buchanan share the top honour.

Surfing legend Layne Beachley beamed with pride as her co-host Mark Beretta pointed out it was a great night for women's sport.

Canberra's BMX and mountainbiking champ  Caroline Buchanan.

Canberra's BMX and mountainbiking champ Caroline Buchanan. Photo: Getty Images

Beachley has fought for recognition of her talents her whole career. With an incredible seven world championships, she will go down as one of the greatest surfers this country has ever produced, male or female.

Crow and Buchanan are amazing stories. Less than 14 months after taking up rowing, Crow was undefeated this year in the single scull and was named the world rower of the year. Buchanan has rebounded from the disappointment of missing out on a medal at last year's Olympics to win two world championships in BMX and four-cross mountain biking.

She has stripped down for glamorous magazine shoots, but Buchanan's primary focus is as an athlete. Even with all her accomplishments, she struggles to attract sponsors.

Canberra rower Kim Crow.

Canberra rower Kim Crow. Photo: Melissa Adams

It's an unfortunate reality of the society we live in.

In Canberra, we embrace our female sporting stars. The Capitals are seven-time champions of the Women's National Basketball League, Canberra United lifted the W-League trophy in 2011-12 and the ACT Meteors hold their own in the Women's National Cricket League.

Individually, there are Hockeyroos stars Anna Flanagan and Edwina Bone, Olympic athletes Lauren Wells (nee Boden), Melissa Breen and golfer Nicky Campbell just to name a few.

Seven-time surfing world champion Layne Beachley.

Seven-time surfing world champion Layne Beachley. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Capital Football chief Heather Reid was disappointed the LFL was given significant media coverage ahead of other women's sports. ''It's very disappointing and frustrating it's going to get the air-time for a range of people who work very hard to get any sort of media coverage for women's sport,'' Reid said.

''The whole thing, the sexualisation and objectification of women, is designed to appeal to a male audience. You'd have to see it as a bit of a circus rather than to take it seriously.

''Is it sport or is it simply sexual gratification for an audience who would normally go to a strip club and see something similar?''

Canberra sprinter Melissa Breen.

Canberra sprinter Melissa Breen. Photo: Getty Images

Goodwin is a former Australian touch football representative and helped the Queanbeyan Whites win last season's ACT rugby union women's premiership.

The 27-year-old said the players who take part in the LFL are serious athletes and fans shouldn't judge their skills by what they're wearing.

''I don't look at it as exploiting women at all,'' Goodwin told The Queanbeyan Age. ''You can go to the Olympics and see our beach volleyball players or our track and field athletes competing in pretty much the same as what we wear.

''I know from the outside people see the lingerie and they judge the sport straight away but … there's a lot more to it than just our uniforms. I definitely think it'll change some people's minds when they see we're not a joke and that the girls playing this sport are all great athletes.''

That may be the case, but it doesn't hide the fact our best female sport stars are struggling for coverage while those who wear lingerie are front and centre.

Moves to improve the promotion and coverage of women's sport are being made. Australia's elite female cricketers are on guaranteed contracts for the first time. Live games of the W-League have returned to ABC TV, and several games will also be shown on Fox.

The women of the LFL can have claims as serious athletes. But by parading in skimpy outfits, the credibility of their achievements will always be up for question.