Women Left on Sidelines in Football and Rugby

There is growing concern over the particular impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Women’s sport at the highest levels.

While the airwaves are endlessly filled with stories of the campaign to bring the Premier League back, the Women’s Premier League, despite the massive boost of a £10 million sponsorship deal from Barclays, has been allowed to slip quietly away with an abandoned season for 2020.

After 16 games Manchester City headed the table, one point clear of Chelsea with Arsenal three points further back. There are strong Irish connections at each of the three clubs. No decision has yet been confirmed on the crowning of a Champion or places in the 2020/21 Champions’ League.

An FA statement said the decision had been taken after “overwhelming feedback from clubs” and that it would “enable clubs, the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship board and the FA to plan, prepare and focus on next season when football returns for the 2020-21 campaign.”

That is understandable and the health of the players has been held up as paramount but it does beg the question of why there is one decision for the Men’s and one for the Women’s?

If that caused a furrowing of brows the mood was not helped within hours as English Rugby confirmed the exit of Tyrrells Crisps from title sponsorship of the Women’s Premier 15’s.

The brand, owned by KP Snacks, was said to have “reviewed its sponsorship commitments and has taken the decision to redirect its marketing spend in line with overarching business objectives.”

There is a natural ebb and flow to cycles of sponsorship but again, there is no such statement emerging from the Gallaghers Premiership.

“Tyrrells has enjoyed three hugely rewarding years as the title sponsor of the Premier 15s,” said Kevin McNair, Marketing Director of KP Snacks.

“Following a recent review of our plans, we have taken the decision not to continue with our sponsorship programme as we look to align all our brand sponsorship arrangement with the business’s overall focus.”

The business’s overall focus in its simplest terms is to sell more snacks and if it no longer feels that Women’s Rugby is worth sticking with then that ramps up the concern again.

England Rugby chief commercial officer Simon Massie-Taylor struck a positive note saying “We are actively exploring new partners for the top-tier tournament and are confident the title sponsorship of the England Women’s Premier 15s game will be an attractive proposition.”

Peak viewing figures of the 2019 final were more than double those of 2018 with live attendance up 27 per cent. Meanwhile, throughout the 2019/20 season, 462,385 people tuned in to watch live Premier 15s action.

Seeing more professional women play has inspired more people to get involved and play the sport with participation in the women and girls game reaching over 37,000 registered players, and over 18,000 women attending over 500 England Rugby entry level Inner Warrior camps during the last three years.

Those metrics are a positive but the prospect of closing the gap between the perception of sport as played by men and women has taken a double hit.

Join us next Thursday morning, June 4th for a Sport for Business Virtual Live Discussion on Has COVID-19 Been Gender-Neutral in its Impact on Sport.


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