If you’re a talented young footballer and you have spent a day at a training camp with coaches from Manchester United, chances are you dream of playing for the first team someday.
For a few lucky children, those dreams become reality.
But not if you’re a six-year-old girl like the one I spoke to at the coaching camp when I visited Walkden junior club Fives Athletic FC recently. Despite sharing the same passion for the game as the boys she could not look forward to the same career in sport. A six-year-old girl may be a talented footballer, but as a fan of Manchester United she cannot dream of playing for her club because they don’t have a women’s team.
The Premier League kicked off on August 17th but for the few weeks before that different sports have been covered in the media. Cricket, the World Championship Athletics and the Paralympics World Swimming championships have all made headlines.
We have seen sportswomen as well as sportsmen competing and winning. Christine Ohuruogu won her second World Championship gold in the Moscow sprints and Ellie Simmons broke world records and won her 11th world championship title.
For a few weeks, women in sport got equal coverage. But for the rest of the year, we don’t see our brilliant sportswomen competing at the highest level. In fact, women’s sport gets less than 5% of the total sports coverage in the media. And this matters because the lack of coverage means there is little sponsorship going into women’s sport – only 0.5% of the total.
Elite athletes like the rowers Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins spend years training and competing to become the best. But the rewards for sportswomen like Kath and Anna are not the same as for men. When BMW cars were awarded to the GB rowers who won gold medals, twelve male rowers got one but none of the female rowers did.
The England women’s football team played to near-capacity crowds during the Olympics, but they were playing and training for an annual salary of just £16,000. By comparison, the England men’s team were promised £100,000 each if they had won Euro 2012.
We will never raise the women’s game to the same standards of athleticism and professionalism as the men with such gaps in sponsorship and salaries.
Now a cross-party committee of MPs will look at these issues in women’s sport. They will look at media coverage; sponsorship; why fewer women take part in sport; what sports are on offer to girls at school and what facilities are available to them.
This is just the first step on a road that I hope may help ensure that one day soon talented girls can enjoy the same sporting opportunities and rewards as the boys.
If you are involved in women’s sport and feel strongly about these issues, you can send your views via this link: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/culture-media-and-sport-committee/inquiries/women-and-sport/