IWD guest four: sometimes there should be an ‘I’ in ‘team’

A Northern Voice gives his guest contributor’s thoughts:

About nine months ago I sat down to watch the ladies final at Wimbledon, an act I must have done at least 15 times before in my life. I freely confess I don’t actually remember who won, but again that’s not exceptional as I’d struggle to name the winners of previous years too.

There was one thing different during last years final though – it made me realise for the first time just how shockingly underexposed women are in professional sport.

As I watched the two finalists slug it out, I tried to think about the number of major sports in which women enjoy something at least approaching parity with the men. Outside of Olympic events such as athletics, Michelle Wi and her golfing ilk in the USA, and the aforementioned tennis, this was a real struggle.

What particularly struck me was their lack of exposure in the big team sports like football, cricket and rugby. In individual disciplines, the likes of Jessica Ennis and Serena Williams have secured women’s place, but we’re still sorely lacking in the team department.

Hope Powell’s England football ladies gained some brief but welcome exposure at last year’s World Cup and the BBC always do a decent job of trying to mention the women’s rugby Six Nations. But these are small dents in the problem.

Sport is not remotely in the list of important issues facing women as a gender or indeed the planet as a whole at the moment. What it can be though is a part of the jigsaw, an agent of social mobility, and a motivator for young people to follow their idols in their footsteps.

This is why professional sport needs more female stars, especially in the team sports, to inspire the next generation of women to reach their potential.

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