Women's sport ripe for incredible growth, says UK Sport chief Sally Munday
Watch The Women's Sport Debate, live on Sky Sports Action on Wednesday at 8pm and Women's Sport Debate: The Reaction at 9pm
By Emma Paton
Last Updated: 12/08/20 10:48pm
Women's sport is ripe for incredible growth and the disruption from coronavirus will be just a short-term "blip", says UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday.
A year after 11.7million people tuned in to watch England play the USA in football's Women's World Cup semi-finals, women's sport has been hit hard by the coronavirus shutdown, an issue which will be discussed in detail in a special show on Sky Sports on Wednesday evening.
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However, Munday sounded an optimistic tone over the apparent loss of momentum.
"I don't want us to talk ourselves into there being a backwards step," she told Sky Sports.
"I want us to talk ourselves into the fact that we've got to use this situation. Every challenging situation is an opportunity."
In football, the Premier League and Championship resumed, but Chelsea were named WSL champions on June 5 after the league was curtailed and the final standings were decided using a basic points-per-game basis.
The Women's Sport Debate, live on Sky Sports at 8pm
- The show will take a detailed look at why and how women's sport has been affected in recent months.
- The panel will discuss what has led women's sport to this point and what needs to happen next.
- Ebony Rainford-Brent, Will Greenwood and Tamsin Greenway form part of the panel of experts.
- 'Women's Sport Debate: Live Reaction' will follow at 9pm with both shows streamed live on YouTube.
In rugby union, the men's Gallagher Premiership plans to return on August 15, long after the women's Premier 15s season was declared null and void. And, England's male cricketers have played the West Indies, Ireland and Pakistan, but England's women are not set to play until September 1 at the earliest.
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"I can see why some people would feel like [the momentum] it's been lost, but I really believe that it's just a blip," Munday added.
"People do want to watch women's sport and I don't think just because we've paused that it will stop.
"I think people have had a taste for how brilliant women's sport is, live and on TV, and I really am optimistic that this is a moment in time, and that we've got to get past and that we will then rebuild to gain the momentum we've seen before."
Munday also pointed to the experiences of Olympic and Paralympic athletes, where gender disparity doesn't appear to be as stark.
"Olympic and Paralympic sport has very much paved the way in terms of equal gender," she said.
"The vast majority of Olympic and Paralympic sports treat men's and women's sports exactly the same way. That's what we've seen during COVId-19 in terms of getting back to training.
"There's been no difference in approach from Olympic and Paralympic sport - they want to get their sports back and that is women and men.
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"I think women's sport is ripe for incredible growth, I think that the period ahead to Tokyo next year will give us an opportunity to showcase women's sport again.
"Not only do we have the Olympic and Paralympic Games, where there's likely to be more female than male athletes in Team GB, we've then got the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and that's still on course to be the first multi-sport major that has more women than men's events.
"Many of the current stars, that we've been seeing in the Olympic movement from Dina [Asher-Smith] and Hannah [Cockroft], through to Sarah [Storey] and Alice Tai, they are female and are showcasing the very best of Olympic and Paralympic sport."
'Inequalities ... between the sexes, became very apparent once we opened our eyes to it.'
One major success story to emerge since lockdown in women's sport has come through the organisation of golf's Rose Ladies Series.
Justin Rose and wife Kate set up the women's tournament after deciding it was unfair that British female professionals had nowhere to play competitively while their main pro circuits prepared for a resumption.
The series consisted of eight events and culminated at Wentworth's West Course, with the Grand Final cut short because of a large wildfire near the course last Friday.
Charley Hull finished as the inaugural event's Order of Merit winner, receiving a cheque for £20,000, while Alice Hewson received the £10,000 prize for leading the shortened Grand Final.
Speaking to Sky Sports News in an extended interview to be aired during The Women's Sport Debate, Kate Rose said: "Inequalities in sport in general, but particularly in golf between the sexes, became very apparent once we opened our eyes to it.
"I also say to our children, especially our son, it is not on the women and girls to have to fight for their equality"
Kate Rose, organiser of the Rose Ladies Series
"We were really keen to try and not level the playing field but at least shine a little bit of the light on the ladies.
"I also say to our children, especially our son, it is not on the women and girls to have to fight for their equality.
"You are going to have to grow up knowing how to fight for equality even if it is not benefiting you particularly. It needs both voices.
"In a way it is nice that Justin and I have kind of done it together as a partnership and I do think that is where we really do need to work hand in hand."
Watch The Women's Sport Debate, live on Sky Sports at 8pm and Women's Sport Debate: The Reaction at 9pm, plus stream both shows via the Sky Sports YouTube channel.