For many of us fighting for equality within women’s sport over the years, it is frustrating and also a worrying time for most. After an awesome summer of women’s sports in 2019, 2020 has been somewhat of a horror movie for most of us.
With many female athletes, journalists and creatives within this space losing their jobs or been put on the JRS, the question begs – what next for women’s sport?
Like most, Former England manager Hope Powell is concerned about the negative effect that the coronavirus pandemic is having on women’s sport.
While most men’s sport is pushing on with the testing programmes in hope that they will be allowed to complete their seasons – this goes across football, rugby, cricket etc, there are no such plans for any of the women’s sport.
The disparity in finance for the men’s and women’s game may make the divergence understandable, but Powell along with most in the women’s sport space accepts the concern about female sport losing some of the momentum it has gained in recent years especially summer 2019 with the Women’s FIFA World Cup.
A record-breaking 28.1 million people tuned into The Women’s World Cup on the BBC in the UK this summer across 52 games, some of which were broadcast linear, and most of which were on-demand.
The tournament overall saw 13.1m match requests (live and on-demand) on BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport. Highlights include Scotland’s first-ever World Cup and England’s clash with the US.
The England v USA quarterfinal delivered the highest live TV audience of 2019 with 11.7m viewers. The USA v Netherlands final clenched a peak BBC One audience of 4.7m and peak share of 38.5%.
The gender split saw 62% of viewers male, dispelling the notion the sport may only attract female audiences.
So, with all this information and the momentum been built, is it the right time for sporting organisations, brands and federations to turn a blind eye to women’s sports?
With a build-up like this, I would like to think that the people in charge would have put strategies in place and ring-fenced some finance to ensure we don’t lose the attention of the women’s sports audiences globally? As a woman at the heart of the fight for equality and support for women’s sport, it is disappointing to witness the disregard for women’s sport during these difficult times.
I truly wanted to stay positive and hope that organisations were truly committed to the growth of women’s sports come rain or shine but as I see how things have been handled over the last couple of weeks, I am quietly losing hope in the promises made by most during the summer of 2019, knowing that athletes, audiences and same young girls we were supposed to be inspiring are paying attention.
It is estimated Premier League clubs will spend £4m on coronavirus tests, while their counterparts in the Championship are committed to spending over £100,000 each for their season to be concluded.
We know that women’s sports do not have this kind of money to test female athletes to ensure that, they are safe to play but also, they don’t even have the space to do the social distancing training. So, where do we go from here?
This is not a blame game but a time to have an open conversation on how women’s sport can be developed to the standard that, we don’t have to suffer this much in future if we are to experience another pandemic.
I am afraid that we are going to lose a whole generation of female athletes and fans to our sports due to what has happened this summer. But it is also a great opportunity to do something remarkable for women’s sports going forward for the brave organisations, federations and brands who truly care.