THE BLOG

For the Future of Women's Sport, We Need Collaboration

11/09/2014 16:17 BST | Updated 11/11/2014 10:59 GMT

The Women in Sport report released by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee last month shone a welcome (and much needed) light on the complex issues that face women across the sport sector.

It was great to see many of the recommendations made by WSFF taken up by the Committee, chief among these being the call for a cross-government approach to sport. We all know the role that sport has to play in the nation's health, education and the growth of the economy - it's similarly clear that a genuinely joined-up approach to sport policy from government will improve provision, access and benefits for all.

Positive recommendations are one thing. Practical application, however, is quite another.

Prior to joining the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, I spent over 15 years working in the health sector. My professional career took off in the NHS and I've witnessed, first-hand, the complexities of health policy and delivery. The truth is the health sector makes the sport sector look fairly straightforward! Introducing a new, collaborative approach to sport and health makes sense, but we have to acknowledge the difficulties of the practicalities. Add public health, education and local government into the mix, and the challenge is monumental.

The first thing we need to see is a clear appetite for change at the highest reaches of Government. A willingness for inter-departmental cooperation is imperative if these recommendations are to translate into serious action.

Secondly, we need a long-term commitment. The sort of change that will redress the current participation, workforce, investment & profile gaps for women's sport will not be achieved within a government cycle, and certainly not by the end of this parliament. We need a long-term, evidence-based strategy, with clear milestones and - perhaps most importantly - a commitment to collaboration. There are many organisations now working towards an improved world for women in sport, and bringing all of these together under a single umbrella strategy would be an excellent starting point.

The evidence for approaching women's sport in a new way is compelling, but it is also only known within select circles (and now Select Committees...).The sport sector, the media, politicians and I in my role as Chief Executive of WSFF, all need to do a better job of publicising the benefit to society of promoting women's involvement in sport - that's where the real momentum for change will come from.

I'm pleased that women's sport has been so prominent in the spotlight this year.At the end of October, WSFF will deliver a major national event on women's sport with Government to help create a shared vision for the future of women's sport. I'm hopeful that collaboration across Whitehall will happen and will make a difference. But I'm also realistic about the enormity of the task. The Select Committee's recommendations are, however, a great start

If I get my job right, one day the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation won't need to exist, because we'll have achieved full gender equity for the sector. That day isn't here yet, but we're working towards it and the partnerships and collaborations we form will help us get there.