It was a tough year for Women’s sport in 2020, with most major events and leagues disrupted or postponed until 2021. Most notably, the Tokyo Olympics being postponed until 2021 meant there were no major sporting events to bring Women’s sport into the global spotlight.
As a result, I was asked many times this year, “Will all the momentum built up over the past few years be lost?” With many questions being hard to answer this year, in April or May this was a tough one to tackle, especially when trying to find solid data with which to predict the future. What we did see as the year panned out was a return to play for most Women’s Sports; the football leagues are back up and running, with the Premier League supporting the FAWSL and the Women’s Bundesliga benefiting from the top German clubs’ solidarity fund in order to restart. The NWSL in the USA was one of the first sports to restart with a bubble tournament, and TV audience records were broken. Then Naomi Osaka’s iconic US Open victory, and the way she took a stand to support the Black Lives Matter movement, was one of the biggest sporting moments of the year (regardless of gender).
So, what do I think now in answer to the aforementioned question? Absolutely not; we haven’t lost momentum, but if this year has taught us anything it’s that change doesn’t just happen; we all need to stand up and make a difference. A few changes I’m looking forward to in 2021 are the W Series being part of F1 races. Those drivers will be able to showcase their talents in front of the F1 paddock. I would love to see top female (and male) athletes making their voices heard on all facets of equality and diversity when the eyes of the world are on the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Also, what I want to see is the team sports, where the inequality between genders is the most stark, continue to build strong commercial platforms for Women’s sport to succeed on a day to day level.
As mentioned, we all need to make change happen; whether you are Naomi Osaka, Dina Asher-Smith, you are a CEO of a rights holder, or are starting out your career in an agency, everyone can play a part in progressing Women’s Sport. Perhaps most importantly, we need senior decision makers to continue to bring Women’s Sport into focus as a key strategy for growth, to resource it properly and to be ambitious with what can be achieved. This is an area I’ve become more passionate about as I become more senior in my own career (and rarely seeing other females on video calls in my day to day work), that we need more diversity at senior decision maker level in sport. Personally, I used to be more focused on the progression of Women’s Sport rather than those who work in sport; however, the two are inevitably intertwined. More diversity at a senior level will be more representative of the population and therefore both genders. I’m driven by creating better opportunities for sportswomen, the ones I didn’t have as a rugby player playing at an elite level for Scotland and Wasps, juggling my career and trying to give 100% to both. So to ‘leave the jersey in a better place’ as we say in rugby, should inspire us to make change both for Women’s Sport and Women in Sport.