Sally Munday MBE, UK Sport chief executive, is optimistic that the disruption to women’s sport will just be a short-term “blip”.
A year on from 11.7 million people tuning in to watch England play the USA in football’s Women’s World Cup semi-finals, women’s sport is struggling to return from the coronavirus shutdown.
Whilst several men’s team sports have resumed, the same can’t be said of women’s sport.
“I don’t want us to talk ourselves into there being a backwards step,” Munday said to Sky Sports.
“I want us to talk ourselves into the fact that we’ve got to use this situation. Every challenging situation is an opportunity.”
The Women’s Sport Debate, live on Sky Sports at 8pm
In football, the Premier League and Championship resumed, but Chelsea were named WSL champions on June 5 after the league was curtailed and the final standings were decided using a basic points-per-game basis.
In rugby union, the men’s Gallagher Premiership plans to return on August 15, long after the women’s Premier 15s season was declared null and void. And, England’s male cricketers have played the West Indies, Ireland and Pakistan, but England’s women are not set to play until September 1 at the earliest.
“I can see why some people would feel like [the momentum] it’s been lost, but I really believe that it’s just a blip,” Munday said.
“People do want to watch women’s sport and I don’t think just because we’ve paused that it will stop,” she added.
“I think people have had a taste for how brilliant women’s sport is, live and on TV, and I really am optimistic that this is a moment in time, and that we’ve got to get past and that we will then rebuild to gain the momentum we’ve seen before.”
The gender disparity doesn’t appear to be as stark when it comes to Olympic and Paralympic athletes though, as Munday pointed out.
“Olympic and Paralympic sport has very much paved the way in terms of equal gender,” she said.
“The vast majority of Olympic and Paralympic sports treat men’s and women’s sports exactly the same way. That’s what we’ve seen during COVId-19 in terms of getting back to training.
“There’s been no difference in approach from Olympic and Paralympic sport – they want to get their sports back and that is women and men.
“I think women’s sport is ripe for incredible growth, I think that the period ahead to Tokyo next year will give us an opportunity to showcase women’s sport again.
“Not only do we have the Olympic and Paralympic Games, where there’s likely to be more female than male athletes in Team GB, we’ve then got the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and that’s still on course to be the first multi-sport major that has more women than men’s events.
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