Opportunity knocks - Including behind the scenes

One of the reasons we are taking on a world record here at Equal Playing Field is to call for an increase in sporting opportunities and access for women and girls. But access and opportunities in sport relate as much to sitting in the boardroom as they do to stepping out on the pitch. Off the pitch, women are frequently side-lined from decision-making roles in sporting bodies whether on a local or international level. We believe that diversifying boards would make for much more inclusive decisions relating to for example, how to allocate budgets; would generate better strategies for growing the game beyond existing demographics; and would ensure “equality” is paid more than just lip-service.

And so, it’s with pleasure we congratulate Women in Sport, in the UK on winning a major campaign battle. From April this year all publicly funded sports governing bodies must adhere to a minimum threshold of 30% gender diversity to receive public funding.

Nevertheless (to borrow the battle cry that Senator Jeff Sessions inadvertently created when silencing US Senator Elizabeth Warren back in February 2017) Women in Sport are persisting. Their new campaign seeks now to go “Beyond 30%”. Having found that the percentage of women on boards has stagnated at 30%, they are now focusing their attention on senior leadership roles (the percentage of which are taken by women having actually dropped since 2014) as well as establishing healthy leadership development channels from the lowest rungs to the top. Indeed, the lack of a “sustainable pipeline of female leadership talent within sport” is one of the three persistent problems that Women in Sport identified as inhibiting progress.

Sadly, of the 68 national governing bodies, the Football Association (FA) has the third lowest percentage of female non-executive directors – only worse than the Angling Trust and the British Taekwondo Council. That is not acceptable for a sport with such massive appeal to women and girls and one with such aspirations for growth.  Indeed, the FA has just launched a brand new, very welcome strategy to double the number of girls and women taking part in football by 2020 (a strategy heavily influenced by the presence of Sue Campbell in a senior FA leadership role). The FA would now do well to get more women into those leadership development channels and in a wide variety of decision-making roles as soon as possible so that they can best better understand exactly how to do just that.