MPs tell Govt: Do not sacrifice women's sport

The Women's Premier 15s season was declared null and void, but the men's Premiership plans to return on August 15

The cancellation of women’s sporting events due to coronavirus means women are less likely to be inspired to play sport and this “risks undoing work to improve funding”, MPs have warned.

In a damning report, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) has criticised the lack of funding for women’s elite sports and urged the Government not to sacrifice women’s sport, in favour of prioritising the men’s game.

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The report also found that the COVID-19 crisis has, in some cases, “exacerbated” inequalities between men’s and women’s sport.

In football, while the Premier League and Championship have been able to return behind closed doors, the Women’s Super League (WSL) and Championship seasons were cancelled, with the FA citing a lack of funding as one of the main contributing factors.

The report also highlighted disparities between the cancellation of women’s events in rugby and cycling, where men’s events have been rearranged for later dates.

Last month, the Premier League announced it has offered around £1m to help fund coronavirus testing and allow the return of the WSL for the 2020-21 season, but the DCMS committee criticised this move for coming “late in the day”.

“Over recent years, women’s elite sports have been consistently underfunded compared to men’s,” the report read. “In many cases, the financial models for broadcasting and ownership differ from those in male sports.

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted, and in some cases even exacerbated, this inequality. Before the crisis, women’s sport accounted for just 4% of sports media coverage in the UK.

“While we acknowledge and welcome the Premier League’s “gesture” of giving approximately £1 million to the women’s professional football game to assist them with setting up a testing system, the assistance came somewhat late in the day and has not prevented women’s competitions being cancelled this season.

“The lack of visibility of women’s sport this summer risks undoing work to improve funding for women’s elite sport.

“Cancellation of women’s events is likely to reduce the number of women being inspired to take part in sporting activities.

“In its response to this report, the Government should outline how it intends to support women’s sport post-crisis and ensure that, going forward, men’s elite sports are not further prioritised at the expense of the women’s game.”

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