Sport is played and watched by multimillions if not billions of people worldwide, but it cannot be helped that in most major sports such as football for example, more people will watch the men’s game than the women’s game. This is also true for playing sport.
Girls are being put off sport by PE lessons and must be offered more “imaginative” activities including dance and cycling, the Commons culture, media and sport watchdog has concluded. With 2 million fewer women than men playing regular sport, the cross-party group of MPs will call on the government to force schools into taking girls’ exercise more seriously, especially in light of growing inactivity in children. They said this could be done by amending the public sector equality duty for schools to make clear that an equal amount of attention must be given to sport for girls as boys.
In a report, the committee, led by senior Conservative MP John Whittingdale, found that some enjoy team games like football or netball, but the top sports for female participation are tennis, swimming, running and Zumba. It said there should be a wider variety of activities on offer, such as dance and cycling, or non-traditional games for girls, like rugby.
“Girls are being deterred from participating in sport by their experiences in school PE lessons,” the report found. “Unfortunately, an emphasis on competitive sport may make this situation worse for some girls … Whatever the reality, there is a perception amongst pupils and others that schools care more about, and spend more money on, sport for boys than for girls.”
The MPs said they were concerned about “persistently low rates of participation in sport by women and girls”, with 30% playing sport once a week compared with 40% of men. It said some of the reasons for this found by Sport England included lifestyle barriers, such as family responsibilities, and personal barriers, such as not knowing anyone, a belief that muscular and sporty bodies are not feminine, and not wanting to look silly. The report also blames local authority budget cuts for the fact there are too few facilities to allow people to easily participate in sport.
“We fear that a diminution in the number and quality of sporting facilities will simply increase the need for more expensive health and social care interventions in a less fit population, even if one does not take into account the loss to individuals,” it said. “Provision of some basic facilities – pitches, swimming pools, sports halls – at low cost should be seen as a contribution to public health rather than a leisure programme.”
The MPs also looked at the under-representation of women on sporting bodies, the lack of women’s sport on television and lower pay for professional female sports players, saying all of these areas should be addressed. Helpful measures, they concluded, might include the publication of more results of women’s matches in the media and fewer comments on the appearance of sportswomen and the ability of women in general to play sports.
As a massive football fan, I find it disappointing that the women’s game doesn’t get the tv attention that it should. I’m an avid Manchester City fan and follow all aspects of our club from our first men’s team, to our youth teams, women’s team and partner teams in New York and Melbourne. Sadly as I’m not living in or around Manchester, watching the games at the stadia just isn’t going to happen for me so I rely on tv coverage and the club’s Youtube channel to follow their progress. I find it really disappointing that the vast majority of games I watch are the men’s game. All this media attention to the men’s game is actually promoting a gender inequality and giving the women’s game a poor image. I would like to see the women’s game get more publicity in the UK, which in turn might promote girls getting into sport down at grass roots level. This isn’t just the case for football, it’s the case for all sports. I personally think the media have the power to be able to promote girls into sport at all levels.