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Say Yes to Success in women’s sports

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WSFF logo, new campaign to develop annual calendar of women’s sports and competitions.New campaign to develop annual calendar of women’s competitions.

Acknowledging that for women’s sport, ‘the Olympics and Paralympics are almost everything,’ the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation’s (WSFF) latest report has presented three essential, ambitious goals for lifting women’s sports out of its current status as men’s sports’ ‘poor relation’.

‘Women’s Sport: Say Yes to Success’ is the WSFF’s third report examining the levels of commercial investment in women’s sport in the UK.

It is the first report that combines the analysis of commercial investment with the results of a media audit of the type and quantity of coverage of women’s sports.

Despite women’s sports now enjoying their highest levels of overall popularity and visibility, these numbers are dismal when compared to men’s sports.

Women’s sport accounts for only 0.4 per cent of all commercial investment into all sports.

Only seven per cent of all sports media coverage is of women’s events.

The conundrum of trying to improve commercial investment in sporting competitions that are never, or rarely, highly publicised is well known.

Now, however, the WSFF is creating an Action Group to break the cyclical chicken-and-egg question of how to make women’s sports more financially successful as well as better publicised and more popular.

The report’s first recommendation is to develop a regular calendar of high quality events and competitions.

Sports fans, six out of ten of whom want to see more live coverage of women’s sport on TV, have a well-established, year-round calendar of major sporting competitions, most of which are almost exclusively male.

WSFF has pledged to work with different sports, broadcasters and sponsors to ‘understand what can be done to develop existing competitions and create new ones where the opportunities exist’.

There have been some positive developments, such as the Tour de France’s decision to run a women’s race called La Course on the last day of this year’s men’s event, and, through sponsor Newton Investment Management’s encouragement, the decision has been made to hold the men’s and women’s Oxford and Cambridge boat races on the same day and on the same course from 2015.

The report’s second recommendation is for the new Action Group to identify and share ‘the key elements of successful commercial and media partnerships in sport’.

With 53 per cent of sports fans believing women’s sport to be as exciting to watch as men’s, potential sponsors need to consider the potential of any partnership.

Newton Investment Management’s CEO, Helena Morrissey, told WSFF that ‘Decisions about whether to invest cannot be made on existing viewing figures.

‘Instead, companies must consider what viewing figures could be if there was investment and meaningful partnerships between all concerned.’

Thirdly, the report recommends that women’s events and competitions must be developed in a way that encourages fans to engage and connect with them.

Media outlets are assisting in this, with the BBC’s Editorial Lead for Women’s Sports taking up the post in January 2013, Sky Sports launching the Sportswomen show late in 2013 and BT Sport featuring women’s sports in its launch campaign.

It will be interesting, and hopefully exciting, to see how women’s sports develop commercially and in visibility as the WSFF pushes this latest plan forward.

Particularly because WSFF’s research found that sportswomen are considered to be inspirational and excellent role models, with almost two-thirds of young people believing sportswomen to be better role models than other female celebrities.

You can contribute by signing the campaign’s pledge and sharing #SayYes on Twitter.

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