UK
18/07/2013 13:30 BST | Updated 18/07/2013 13:59 BST

Sexism In Sport: Tour De France, Open Championship And Olympics All In Question Over Inequality

Women in sport
PA
Women in sport

A growing sexism row has engulfed some of the world's greatest sports events.

As golf's Open Championship became embroiled in controversy over its dated men-only courses, a collection of the finest female cyclists launched a petition calling for the Tour de France to hold a women's race.

And the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation called for an equal number of Olympic medals to be on offer for both genders.

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman all joined in the criticism of the "bigoted bunker mentality" at Muirfield, which is hosting this week's Open championships.

Labour called for a change in the law to ban the "loophole" in equality laws, while Culture Secretary Maria Miller said she would boycott the Championships as a result.

Meanwhile, as the Tour de France approached its climax, world champion and Olympic medalist Emma Pooley, World Ironman Triathlon champion Chrissie Wellington and champion cyclists Kathryn Bertine and Marianne Vos launched a petition on Change.org calling on the organisers of the Tour de France to add a women's race to the event in 2014.

Signatures raced towards the 50,000 target, reaching 43,000 by Thursday afternoon.

The petition says: "After a century, it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too.

"While many women's sports face battles of inequity, road cycling remains one of the worst offenders: fewer race opportunities, no televised coverage, shorter distances, and therefore salary and prize money inequity."

A spokesman for Muirfield said there were "no plans" to change its membership policy.

Labour MP Gerry Sutcliffe, who was sports minister between 2007 and 2010, told The Huffington Post UK he encountered sexist attitudes during his time in government, describing golf's ruling body's stance as "totally unnecessary."

"I think it's outdated, unnecessary, and I'm not sure what the motivation is.

"The Open Championships are a fantastic product, but nobody can understand the reasoning."

Even the union of working men's clubs had voted to admit women, he pointed out.

Asked about the Tour de France petition, which is backed by the newly-formed Women's Sport Trust, Sutcliffe added: "We have plenty of role models in women's cycling, so why shouldn't there be a women's Tour de France?"

The Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation is campaigning to have the same number of medals available for men and women at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

At London 2012, men competed for 162 golds, compared to 132 for women.

Women's sport attracts just 0.5% of the total sponsorship money going into sport, the foundation said.

Tim Woodhouse, its head of policy, told HuffPost UK Lifestyle: "Women's sport suffers from lack of regular opportunities to showcase talent, particularly with cycling.

"Domestic leagues aren't given the same profile as men's, which are covered week in week out.

"Women's sports relies on international competition, and to not compete in the Tour de France is a real shame."