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England Winning The World Cup Was A Massive Day For All Sport, Not Just Women's Sport

24/07/2017 10:25
Stu Forster via Getty Images

I dare anyone who likes sports to watch yesterday's ICC Women's World Cup final and say they don't find women's sport exciting. England's nine-run win over India was nothing short of thrilling, as Anya Shrubsole put on the performance of a lifetime, an incredible spell of six for 46.

When England's chances of winning were in doubt, they found a way to become champions - for me, that's what sport is about; the competition, the teamwork, the incredible talent, the excitement, and the euphoria of winning. And I wholeheartedly believe that both the England and Indian team yesterday proved once and for all that that is what women's sport is about too. I believe it finally puts an end to the argument that men shouldn't watch women's sports as "it's not as good" or "the quality isn't the same". Sorry guys, but you're now going to have to think of a better excuse.

So how come this win the game-changer, given this is actually the fourth time England have won the World Cup? I think for starters you have to look at the build-up towards the final. Sky Sports, in partnership with the ICC, provided full coverage of the tournament for the first time. By giving the games that platform it lent the series momentum and the opportunity for people to watch women's sports who otherwise might not have. By promoting it in the same level as the men's, it gave the impression that this is something sports fans should be watching. And with the global TV audience reach of over 50million for the group stage matches, it seems like a bit of a no-brainer.

This, as well as England performing so well throughout the tournament, culminated in the final at Lord's being a sell-out, which is unheard of. If that's not groundbreaking I'm not sure what is. I heard one person exclaim "but the tickets were all bought by women", as if that undermined the event?

In reality, 50% of ticket buyers were female. 50%. A gender diverse audience. And what did that equate to? An audience which was nothing short of buzzing from the very first ball - it felt like we were watching a Twenty20 match, not the start of a one-day. The atmosphere was absolutely electric.

What's more, with 31% of ticket buyers being under 16, and many more of the crowd full of children, it felt incredibly special to see girls and boys dressed in their team's colours watching women ignite a packed-out stadium. For them, it will now be something they have grown up with, and will become normal to them, and that is something that excites them beyond belief. They will have female role models to look up to and inspire them. And how did they finish their day? Walking out with a bat and ball provided to them, ensuing that they have equipment to play with and as a souvenir to remember this day.

But what also excited me was the members and groups of guys turning up to watch the cricket and enjoy the day, just like they would do any other game. There was no difference. No undermining the game, no undeserving criticism of the players, and it was beyond refreshing. And isn't that the goal? For men and women's sport to be treated equally and for both genders to be able to watch sport, regardless who is playing it?

For me, it proves that the ICC are on to a winning formula. For them to have the confidence to place the final at Lord's from the very beginning, to offer affordable tickets, and for the broadcasters to provide full coverage for the first time.

As I think the saying goes, "if you build it, they will come". It may have taken far longer than it should have, and we are completely not there yet, but I know I'm not the only person who feels that this is only the beginning for women's sport.

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