Women’s Sport Week celebrating female athletes

FOR a second successive year female participation and performance will be showcased throughout the UK in Women’s Sport Week, writes Isobel Irvine.

The seven-day bonanza is aiming to get more women and girls physically active by celebrating women’s sport from grassroots to elite level.

As Great Britain anticipated this summer’s Olympics in Rio, last year’s inaugural event focused on media coverage, elite competition, grassroots participation and the workforce. This year, after hugely successful Olympic and Paralympic competition, with female athletes again triumphing in the medal table, the week will be looking to use that momentum and feel-good factor to encourage even more women and girls to get involved in sport and physical exercise.

Led by the charity Women in Sport, along with national governing bodies, sport organisations, BBC Sport, Sky Sports and the Department for Culture Media and Sport, a fundraising campaign to help transform sport for the benefit of every women and girl in the UK will also be launched this week.

In addition to clubs throughout the country staging their own events, the BBC Sport website will have guest editors and columnists throughout the week including Laura Kenny (Trott), Susie Wolff, Danielle Waterman, Hannah Cockroft, Nicola Adams and Heather Knight.  On 4 October, Eleanor Oldroyd presents a special programme on BBC Radio 5 Live on the success of women’s team sports with a Women’s Sport Trust discussion the following day at New Broadcasting House on how women’s sport and athletes are visually represented in the media and by brands. Then BBC Get Inspired and Radio 1 Extra are hosting Body Talk (6 October), a live, interactive discussion on body image issues for women in and around sport.

Last year Sky Sports led with stories of female participation and achievement every hour throughout the week and will be ramping up their coverage this year with inspiring stories, analysis and interviews with the leading names in women’s sport.

Meanwhile north of the border sportscotland are devoting their #SportHour on 3 October (9-10pm) on getting girls active where followers of their Twitter account can get involved in the discussion (@sportscotland). This leads into the governing body’s Active Girls Day on Friday 28 October (#ActiveGirlsDay)

While the focus has undoubtedly homed in on women and sport over the last few years there are still currently 1.6 million fewer women than men playing sport on a regular basis in the UK with women’s sport capturing just 7% of all sports media coverage and only 0.4% of commercial investment in sport.

Evidence from Sport England suggests that the most popular sports (male) are cricket, football and rugby while the more individual pursuits of swimming, athletics and tennis rate more highly for women. Their ‘This Girl Can’ programme, launched last year, has seen nearly 3m women and girls take on new or increase their levels of physical activity. Worldwide, the movement is picking up pace too. Over 1.5m supporters in the USA attended a WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) game his season, a 4.6% increase in its average attendance. And in Australia, where there is a near 50-50 split in participation across all sports, their women netballers are now earning wages in excess of their male AFL (Australian Football League) players.

The last year has seen developments in Scotland, too. Over the summer Scottish Golf launched #ThisGirlGolfs coaching events with club PGA Pros, promoting their sports role models with the emphasis on fun and enjoyment. In the spring Scottish Cycling’s new Women on 2Wheels programme mirrored the earlier announcement of their GoGirls programme for 8-12 year olds. Scotland’s women cricketers reached the World Cup qualifiers and a women’s position was created on their Board. Scottish Rugby announced the first female professional rugby player, in Jade Konkel, and in football Scotland has two clubs (Glasgow City and Hibernian) in the last 32 of the Uefa Women’s Champions League for the first time.

With the Scottish Government launching their Sporting Equality Fund this year, to the tune of £300k investment to increase participation, engagement and promotion of women in sport there really is no better time to take the plunge, get on your bike, join the race and get involved in sport and physical exercise in Scotland.

Follow Women’s Sport Week activities across the UK at www.womeninsport.org and follow #WSW16