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Money in sport for women: a long term vision

Sarah Milner, sports coach UK Inclusion and Diversity lead, blogs on the gender ineqaulity and discrepancy in prize funds in sport:

With the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio just around the corner I thought I would take a moment to look at how the discrepancy in prize funds that still exist between men and women in elite sport continues to highlight gender inequality in sport.

Tennis is leading the way towards gender equality for women in elite sport. It was the first sport to provide equal prize money at the US Open way back in 1973, as reported by a BBC Sport survey conducted last year. Billie jean King was the powerhouse behind promoting equality in her sport at the top level and since then many more sports have followed suit. Diving, sailing, taekwondo, windsurfing and BMX cycling all have equal prize money for their male and female winners.

This topic makes really interesting reading, more detail can be found by clicking on this infographic which illustrates the monetary debate between men and women in sport.

More money into prize funds or more money into developing sport for more women?

It’s an interesting question. As funding gets tighter in sport, where does a sport focus its money? Cricket, football and Golf do not fare too well in the BBC report but, where they fail in equality at the elite prize fund level, they are starting to make up in their long term vision of getting more women playing their game at a grassroots level. In England and the UK, all three sports are putting money into making their sports more appealing to women in girls, arguing that this system change will have a long term, sustainable impact on the number of women coming through the sport into professional/elite rankings.

More women participating in sport will increase the overall interest in that sport. More people watching will increase demand for wider media coverage which will, in turn lead to greater commercial investment and overall equality in prize funds at elite level. Gender equality needs to come from within the sport, but it will take time – 42 years since the first equal prize winnings at the US Open, and equality still has not been reached. The issue still needs debating and sports still need supporting to achieve equality.

As always, how these women and girls are coached and developed within their sport is key. Without the positive experiences and support to enjoy and develop as a player, the dropout rates will continue. Yes, put more money into getting more women into your sport, but also make sure they stay in your sport once they are there. That comes down to the coach, or the person leading their session. Sport England have recently released a guide to helping women and girls get active. Have a read, it is important stuff and will help you become aware and develop more appropriate activity, in the right environments for females.

More women playing sport and being active means more people participating. A more active and sporty nation will create more media coverage and greater commercial interest to invest in sport. It would be great to achieve gender equality in sport in the next 20 years but it needs changes to take place within sport. Fix the system, not the women!