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Dr Philippa Velija responds to a recent report highlighting the disparity between women and men’s sport during Covid-19

24th March 2021

Yesterday’s (24 March 2021) Telegraph Sport illustrated the disparity between women's and men’s sport during Covid-19, highlighting the precarity of elite women’s sport and wider gender inequalities in sport. Solent University Associate Professor Dr Philippa Velija, looks at the areas highlighted in the report, the wider issues and what needs to be done to bring about meaningful change.

"The data reported in Telegraph Sport focused on domestic leagues and England international teams in football, rugby, cricket and netball alongside international competition in tennis and motorsport, which showed elite women’s sport lost significantly more days during the pandemic, than men’s sport

"This data, while not surprising to those studying gender relations in sport, highlights the simultaneous ways in which girls and women in sport have both enabling and constraining experiences in sport. We need to continue to capture the ways girls and women are both supported, and resisted, at all levels of sport. This includes challenging dominant notions of women’s sport as ‘new’, when in fact many women’s sport have a rich, somewhat, forgotten history.

"While pre-Covid opportunities for girls and women in sport had grown, current examples of gender inequality include; precarious contracts, lack of support for maternity leave, sexism in the workplace, inequities in coaching positions, as well as the more insidious harassment and social media abuse of female athletes and commenters.

"This is not the first report to highlight issues of gender inequality in Covid-19. Dr Ali Bowes research at Nottingham Trent University has indicated that 80% of female elite athletes felt that the growth of women’s sport was affected by inequalities between men’s and women’s sport, and that women athletes had increased financial concerns during the pandemic.

"In my forthcoming co- edited text, with Dr Lucy Piggott, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology we have brought together contributors from across the UK providing real-world data on significant issues relating gender equity and sport. Gender Equity in UK Sport Leadership and Governance includes chapters on the lack of diversity in sport leadership and governance in the UK, the ongoing gender pay gap in sport and sport related professions, and the everyday sexism women in sport experience.

"To bring about significant change we need to continue to report, research and highlight the disparity between men’s and women’s sport. By doing this we can continue to emphasise the need to acknowledge and tackle the ongoing gender inequalities that exist at all levels."

Dr Philippa Velija, Head of Social Sciences, Psychology and Education

A sociologist who studies gender relations, Dr Velija Draws on figurational sociology she adopts a long-term perspective as well as providing an understanding of changing power relations between men and women. Her book on Women’s Cricket and Global Processes remains one of the few texts which examines the history and development of women’s cricket across the globe from a sociological perspective.

You can read Dr Velija's full academic profile here