Women’s sport is ripe for incredible growth and the disruption from coronavirus will be just a short-term “blip”, says UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday.
A year after 11.7million people tuned in to watch England play the USA in football’s Women’s World Cup semi-finals, women’s sport has been hit hard by the coronavirus shutdown, an issue which will be discussed in detail in a special show on Sky Sports on Wednesday evening.
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However, Munday sounded an optimistic tone over the apparent loss of momentum.
“I don’t want us to talk ourselves into there being a backwards step,” she told 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.
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“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 added.
“People do want to watch women’s sport and I don’t think just because we’ve paused that it will stop.
“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.”
Munday also pointed to the experiences of Olympic and Paralympic athletes, where gender disparity doesn’t appear to be as stark.
“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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