Seven in ten adults in Northern Ireland have noticed an increase in awareness of women’s sports in the last two years, according to new research conducted by Electric Ireland, while fifty-six per cent of people surveyed also admitted that the overall perception of women’s football has improved significantly in the same period.
Over sixty per cent said they would encourage a family member to take up the sport of football though there is still work to do in certain areas with a little over 20 per cent still feeling that ‘there is no sporting future for girls playing football.
Sport for Business took part in an energetic round table discussion in Belfast on Wednesday where members of the media, Sport NI, the Female Sports Forum, Ulster University, the Irish FA and Electric Ireland representatives sought to hammer out ideas that could move the dial further in a positive direction.
The research was conducted by Electric Ireland as part of the brand’s partnership with the Irish Football Association and its Game Changers campaign which aims to increase levels of participation in female football and attendances at women’s games.
“Gone are the days when girls were considered tomboys for wanting to play football with 61% of respondents saying they would encourage a young girl in their family to play the game,” said Electric Ireland Residential Manager for Northern Ireland, Clare McAllister.
“What is required now is to turn awareness into participation.”
“The research revealed that over half support the need for equality in all sports (58%) following the belief that girls can play football as much as boys (56%), however, it also demonstrated there is a long way to go in terms of participation.”
The recent signings of Megan Bell to Rangers Women, was the back page lead in the Belfast Telegraph, an idea which would not have been on the radar a few short years ago.
“It has been very interesting to see this research,” added Kenny Shiels, the NI Women’s International team manager who also took part in the discussion.
“Nearly three times as many people play or support men’s football (18%) when directly compared to women’s football (7%), yet interestingly a similar proportion of adults follow men’s (32%) and women’s football (29%) on social or traditional media.
“We’re beginning to see a change here and are encouraged by a massive 84% increase in attendances at the recent Euro qualifiers compared to previous campaigns.”