It’s almost imperceptible, and it’s arrived with neither pomp nor fanfare, but something in the world of women’s sport has changed irrevocably.
The joys of writing for a blog like The Sportist are great and many, but one of the major benefits is seeing changes in the world of women’s sport almost as they occur. And somehow, from somewhere, 2013 has already felt like a sea change. I’m not sure when I first noticed it, but it feels like something has altered.
Suddenly, things that were a welcome novelty in 2012 – media appreciation of women’s sport, high-profile television and radio spots, debate about equality, a more open treatment and recognition of women’s sport – have suddenly become an even more welcome commonplace occurrence. Witness the increased reportage of women’s sport, the presence of a female cricketer on the front page of the Guardian this week, debate on female sporting equality on TV and radio, English netball featuring both on the television and in the newspapers.
On the back of so much of an increased profile in 2012, women’s football has become the cause celebre of both the many and the few; the central contracts held by the England women’s football team caused such controversy that the PFA became publically involved and a significant, albeit small, victory was won. Similarly, the presence of Hope Powell and women’s football at the FA150 celebrations this week no longer felt out-of-place or like pure lip service, but a significant and equal part of the national sporting fabric.
Changes have come about on the field too. In tennis, Laura Robson and Heather Watson have become genuine, fully-fledged competitors even in defeat during the Australian Open last week; England’s rugby union team lead the world in power, pace and ability to hurt teams with both territory and counter attacks; the Great British hockey team is an Olympic medallist; Powell’s footballers will go into Euro 2013 with genuine designs on the latter stages; Sarah Taylor may be the biggest thing to happen in cricket this year.
Away from the pitch, we’ve begun to notice the shift in perspective on a very personal level too. Twitter activity has been busier than ever; last week saw our busiest ever day and week at The Sportist and January is already our busiest month. While that’s gratifying enough on a personal level, what really gives hope is the possibility that it’s the beginning of a surge behind a new movement.
Of course, these changes are long overdue and there’s much still to be done, but with new campaigns like the ‘She Moves’ project by the brilliant WSFF and the launch of the Women’s Sport Trust this year, the impact of these changes can begin to impact those operating outside of the elite field. Ultimately, this is critical – leading sportswomen finally have an increasingly well-earned degree of exposure in the public eye; they can finally become the role models that could lead a generation of young women to sport, whether competitive, recreational or purely of passionate interest.
The ground is moving and the new landscape will only be a better place for women in sport.
Now, who wants to help it get there faster?