HUSH on … The Women’s Sport Debate

Will Greenwood – Former England Rugby Union Player and 2003 World Cup Winner

One thing this pandemic in 2020 has highlighted is that although women’s sport has made strides over the years there are still barriers and restrictions, especially with many in society still having a socio-political outlook and negative perception. It is a reflection of education and culture, yet we can challenge these stigmatisms to create accessibility for all.

During the Sky Sports Main Event Live TV Event ‘CANCELLED: Women’s Sport and the Impact of Covid-19’ on Wednesday 12th August, former England Rugby Union player Will Greenwood referenced these negative outlooks on women’s sport as “muppets”, stating “anyone with a fingernail of common sense can see the role women’s sport plays in society”. The people who know the importance of women’s sport know the need to inspire others, not just to watch the sport but for physical and mental health.

Utilise the Data

Ebony Rainford-Brent, former English Cricketer, pointed out that women’s sport doesn’t concentrate on the data enough to help growth. “We need to make women’s sport commercially viable on its own”. According to Nielsen Sports Women’s Sport Research 2018, ‘66% of the population [are] interested in at least one women’s sport’. Using these sorts of figures will attract brands and capitalise on investment. “What is going to make you come to the game, unpick our audience”.

Be commercially viable

Investment and funding in women’s sport is still an area which needs improving. It needs to become commercially viable by creating an attracting entertainment business proposition that sponsors want to be associated with. Women’s Sport has the opportunity to be more agile, flexible and innovating, all traits that can benefit the business objectives for a sponsor. See it as a start-up business looking for investment to create the perfect product with sponsors open to influence and support, seeing the long-term benefits to them and women’s sport.

It is still a business

Look at it as a job, women need to play to earn their upkeep. If the opportunity isn’t there, how can they do their job? West Ham captain Gilly Flaherty joined the conversation and praised the FA for understanding the resistance from players to come back to play the reminder of the season. “Many players have short-term contracts and all it takes is one injury to impact…. The risk was too high for the reward”.

And don’t forget your fans

Another business angle is the fans themselves. The sponsors that have the vision and want to understand will connect with these new age fans, who are becoming more fluid in their approach in consuming sport. Tamsin Greenway, former England Netballer stated it is getting into the audiences mind and how they talk and engage in sport. “Women don’t tend to watch women’s sport in the same way as the men’s game”. It is a separate product and need to look at other ways to ‘dress-up’ the coverage to provide a more appealing entity for the fans. This is not just in terms of matchday and live games, also look at how you keep the conversation going, such as social media and unique content.

Education, education, education

Women’s sport has a long way to go to get anyway near the level of coverage as their male counterparts. Having these conversations is a start for growth, insisted by Angela Ruggiero, Co-Founder Sports Innovation Lab. “Rules are being rewritten and education is key”.

Sources:

Sky Sports: The Women’s Sport Debate: Ebony Rainford-Brent, Will Greenwood and Tamsin Greenway in studio –https://www.skysports.com/more-sports/news/11095/12046374/the-womens-sport-debate-ebony-rainford-brent-will-greenwood-and-tamsin-greenway-in-studio

Nielsen: The rise of women’s sports: identifying and maximizing the opportunity – https://www.nielsen.com/uk/en/insights/report/2018/the-rise-of-womens-sports/#

Ebony Rainford-Brent – First black women to play for the England Cricket Team

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