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How has women's sport been affected by Covid-19?

The Covid-19 pandemic still rages on, and whilst all sectors are trying their best to emerge from this crisis as unscathed as possible, it seems that for sports, that in order to do this, they are focusing on men's sport.

Sports, like many other industries, has always been a place of gender inequality. There are inequalities in salaries and opportunities, whether as athletes, managers or coaches. Nevertheless, in more recent years, we were beginning to see a real change in the perception and coverage of women's sports. The question now is how the crisis will impact these advances.

The first fear is that women's sport, having developed so rapidly in such a short period of time, would also be more fragile. Tammy Parlour, co-founder of the Women's Sport Trust, said: “We have to acknowledge there is a very real threat to women’s sport, especially as, under pressure, people often revert to the old ways of doing things.”, and in fact, since women's sport is not deeply rooted in our culture, men are currently seen as a priority.

Another worry is the lack of media coverage of women's sport, with most of the big discussions revolving around male athletes and teams. Especially during this pandemic, media have favoured the broadcasting of men's rather than women's matches, showing for example England's loss to Croatia in men's football and twice in hockey, but not the Great Britain gold medal game for the women’s hockey team. This shows that although women's matches are just as entertaining, men's defeats are often favoured over women's victories.

Finally, as most sporting events have been cancelled or postponed around the world, and only just coming back now, there is and has been little or no media coverage, and therefore no money has been made from it. In addition, many female athletes do not always have a salary, which is already on average much lower than the salary of a man, and so are left to fend for themselves. Women's sport also relies on major brand investments, and with companies currently financially weakened by the crisis, it could lead to reductions or withdrawals of their investments.

Nevertheless, women's sport has potential to rise again and there are several solutions that can be considered to strengthen it after this pandemic.

It needs to become a bigger part of our sporting culture, and for that to happen, there needs to be more media coverage, but also athletes need to make their voices heard on social networks. There is also the possibility of using alternative platforms such as YouTube or Twitch to show these sports which would mean they wouldn’t have to rely on traditional media to be seen.

Governing bodies are always looking to increase the number of participants and fans and so supporting the women's game would help them do this. The public also expects governing bodies to invest in their women's programs due to them being viewed as more progressive and inspiring in comparison to men's sports, and if therefore sponsors might also start to favour them more.

There is no doubt that women's sport will be affected by the Covid-19 crisis from a micro perspective. But at the macro level, there is a significant increase in its popularity. As Alice Dearing, Britain's best open water swimmer said, this forced break only allowed them to be more determined and come back stronger than before.

There are many influential female personalities in the sports world, such as Serena Williams, Megan Rapinoe and many others, who inspire and serve as an example to young girls. While there is hope, it is also our job to collectively do our part, by putting women's sport on the same level as men's and trying to reduce inequalities in order to make sport truly something that unites us.

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