THE BLOG

Why WSFF Is Saying Yes to Success

28/03/2014 11:49 GMT | Updated 27/05/2014 10:59 BST

On International Women's Day, the sun warmed the streets of London for the first time in months; the perfect day then to make my first visit to the Olympic Park since those halcyon days of 2012. Little did I know, I was about to relive the magic.

As I walked towards the Copper Box Arena I could have been forgiven for thinking I was headed towards a music gig, an excited gig creating a real carnival atmosphere. Everyone seemed to be decked out with home-made banners, face paints, inflatable batons - the works!

But this anticipatory crowd wasn't excited about a boy band - this was International Women's Day at its best. This crowd, in excess of 3,000, was there to witness Surrey Storm edge out Hertfordshire Mavericks 52-50 to continue their unbeaten season in the biggest ever domestic netball match played in the UK.

Once inside we were in for a treat: incredible athleticism, breath-taking skill and an atmosphere to rival anything on show that weekend - including the passion demonstrated at Twickenham 18 hours later. And it wasn't just those of us in the arena that were able to share the experience, as Sky Sports broadcast the match live.

So far, so typical? Not for women's sport, where this type of event remains disturbingly uncommon.

The day previously, the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) launched 'Say Yes to Success'. Underpinned by new research into sponsorship and media profile of women's sport, the campaign calls for sponsors, the media and sports to come together to create a calendar of high-profile women's sport events to help redress the imbalance in sport's treatment of women at the elite level.

The problem is clear. In the UK, women's sport receives a mere 7% of the total media coverage dedicated to sport and just 0.4% of commercial investment. The figures become even more disconcerting when broken down further; in the national press, women's sport constitutes a shocking 2% of total coverage.

'Pitiful' is the word we use in our report (Women's Sport: Say Yes to Success) and it is pitiful that sport representing 51% of the population is so poorly treated. It is extraordinarily disappointing that women's success on the field of play isn't adequately supported off it.

We can show, definitively, that audiences do have an appetite for high profile women's sport. As part of our report, we commissioned a survey of sports fans to measure the untapped demand for women's sport; 6 out of 10 said that they wanted to see more live coverage of women's sport on TV.

London 2012 shone a spotlight on our elite female athletes and the general public is more alive than ever to the thrill and spectacle of women's sport.

If the problem for women's sport is self-evident, the solution is less clear cut. One thing that we can say with certainty however is that Saturday's match showed just how much can be achieved when a sport (Netball), the media (Sky Sports) and a commercial sponsor (ZEO) come together to create exciting - and, yes, commercially viable - women's sport events. I have no doubt the 3,000 in attendance enjoyed the spectacle, and who knows how many girls in the arena or watching at home were inspired. It definitely left me wanting more.

That's why we have launched 'Say Yes to Success'. WSFF will use its unique and independent position as the leading champion of women's sport to bring together existing & potential sponsors, sports and the media to identify the key elements of a successful women's sport event and to highlight the mutual benefits available. Broadcasters and investors have told us there simply aren't enough high-calibre women's sport events between Olympic cycles to justify greater investment and dedicated media coverage, so we choose to tackle the problem at its root and bring more women's sport to the fore.

This is no short-term aim. We know it will take hard work, compromise, commitment and the occasional leap of faith. We understand it will involve breaking the pervading culture which allows men's sport to dominate. We recognise it will need progressive thinkers and those with influence to take brave decisions. We also realise that we can't do it alone.

So, if you love sport, join us. WSFF's 'Say Yes to Success' campaign is also calling on fans of women's sport to show their interest by signing a pledge to demonstrate that the UK is crying out for more women's sport.

If we get this right, one day we won't need to discuss women's sport and men's sport. We'll simply talk about sport. Isn't that something to Say Yes to?