Something remarkable happened last Sunday afternoon. I joined a record 6.9 million viewers to witness women’s football leap to a new level in a match that offered drama, controversy and entertainment in full measure.
There was as much to criticise as there was to enjoy in the England v Cameroon women’s world cup match, but since when was that not the case in the men’s game? That’s what people tune-in for, it’s what drives up audience figures and advertising revenues, ultimately generating much needed sponsorship money to go back into sport.
Top level international women’s sport is coming of age in the UK; be it the magnificent ladies who claimed the hockey gold medal at the Rio Olympics, our inspiring cricketers winning the World Cup, or Maidstone’s own Lizzy Yarnold snatching a second skeleton Olympic gold in PyeongChang; we have more inspiring female role models than ever before.
But, with a dismal 0.7% of all sports sponsorship being invested in women’s sport, clearly there is so much more to do. Games like last Sunday’s are the perfect advert to attract local and global investment from businesses and media companies. Women’s sport is a rich untapped seam of commercial potential and the world is waking up to that.
Campaigning to boost the coverage and profile of women’s sport was at the heart of my work as UK Sports Minister from 2013 – 2015, that batten being securely picked up by my successor, also my friend and neighbouring Kent MP Tracey Crouch. I am therefore proud to see our team’s efforts at DCMS now bearing the fruits of success, and vitally, helping improve the physical and mental health of the nation through increased participation.
Best of luck to the Lionesses against Norway tonight, bang in the middle of National School Sports Week and fortuitously motivating thousands of women and girls across our country to take up sport. Go ladies! #getinspired www.thisgirlcan.co.uk