2022 feels like a turning point for women’s sport as more people tune in to the value it brings. Last year’s Women’s FA Cup final attracted 1.3m viewers on BBC television and an additional 200,000 fans watched the game live in the stands or on streaming platforms. With a jam-packed year of high-profile events taking place this year, which includes the forthcoming UEFA Women’s European Championships, Commonwealth Games and Rugby League World we can expect to see viewing figures and attendance record smashed once again.
But whilst the future of women’s sport looks bright, away from the dazzling lights of sport stadiums and TV cameras, the picture at grassroots is less remarkable. Recent research by Women in Sport showed that half as many girls (30%) as boys (60%) dream of reaching the top in sport.* For many girls becoming an elite athlete is not presented as a viable option. Perhaps even more worrying is the fact that almost 60 per cent of girls are not meeting the recommended levels of daily activity** which has a huge impact on both their mental and physical health.
Part of the problem is that just under half of girls and women feel that society doesn’t see sport as important to girls*. And you can’t blame them. For centuries sport has been an exclusively male domain. Vigorous activity was not deemed suitable for a woman’s body nor a feminine pastime and for generations women were side-lined and banned from participation.
Whilst the sell-out stadiums at this year’s UEFA Women’s Euros are a fantastic achievement, the popularity of women’s football is not a new phenomenon. When women were called on to do factory jobs at the start of the First World War women’s football began to flourish, often pulling in more spectators than the men’s game. But when the war was over, the FA began getting more and more cautious of the success surrounding female participation in football. The final straw came on Boxing Day in 1920 when Dick Kerr’s Ladies played St Helens Ladies in front of 53,000 fans at Everton’s Goodison Park ground (over 10,000 more outside) – the largest attendance since records began.
Unhappy with the growing popularity of the female game, the Football Association banned women from playing on FA-affiliated pitches. It was fifty years before that ruling was overturned and ever since women have been fighting hard to try to regain an equal footing on the field of play.
Supporting Women’s Sport
Thankfully the tide is turning and we can all play our part to help continue the growth of women’s sport. 62 per cent of girls surveyed by Women in Sport said seeing top female athletes celebrated made them feel proud while just under half said it inspired them about the possibilities for women.* So, spend time this summer watching and celebrating some of the phenomenal array of women’s sport available on a Hisense TV as a family. Whilst it might sound a contradiction to recommend watching television to encourage being active, having more women’s sport on TV (free to air, prime time TV) shows the value of the professionalism of women’s sport. It helps to inspire the next generation and build confidence and self-belief as women and girls see people like themselves participating.
Women in sport are working with Hisense, UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 sponsors, to promote and champion more women’s sport. Their Remember the Name campaign parallels both the stars of the tournament and the Hisense brand, by gathering attention on the women competing and advocating for more women and girls nation-wide to pursue the sports they are passionate in.
As we celebrate the achievement of the incredible athletes on our screens this year, let’s use these events to inspire girls, to allow them to dream, to show them that women are strong, athletic, powerful and belong on the world stage. The pathway to elite success starts at home.
* Women in Sport and Sports Direct (2021)
** Sport England Active Lives 2021