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Women's sport becomes a game changer

GAME CHANGER: London 2012 gold medallist Nicola Adams

THE WOMEN'S Sport Trust’s #BeAGameChanger Awards are set to recognise the giant strides women’s sport continues to make across the nation.

Illustrious guests at the ceremony on London’s South Bank on May 14 include England flanker and World Cup winner, Maggie Alphonsi, and Olympic gold medallist Nicola Adams. The event will also celebrate organisations and individuals who have worked to progress women’s sport.

The Voice of Sport caught up with the Trust’s co-founder, Jo Bostock, about what the evening promises. “We’ve identified eight categories where the actions of those organisations are really making a difference,” she said. “That’s anything from Sporting Role Models and Journalist of the Year to Sponsorship of the Year.

“What we’re trying to do is recognise people who are doing great stuff because they deserve recognition and also to spread the word about what’s possible and to encourage other people to act.”

The Trust’s day-to-day work includes seeking to raise the profile of women’s sport in order to create visible role models.
“We believe that if you can’t see great role models setting great examples then it limits your ambitions,” adds Bostock.

“So we’ve had the Sport is Beautiful campaign that looks to take photographs of phenomenal athletes, people such as Maggie Alphonsi and Great Britain hockey captain Kate Richardson-Walsh, captains of their country.

“We’re trying to get these images out to schools across the country so that girls can say ‘I want to be that’.
“Instead of getting very few images of women out there you can see loads, not only taken on the red carpet but on the field, being recognised for their sporting competence.”


HAPPY TRIO: Jo Bostock (left) with WST founding patron Olympic gold medallist Anna Watkins and WST co-Founder Tammy Parlour

For all the progress made in recent years sponsors can be wary of backing women’s sports with no proven track record for investment returns.

“One of the biggest obstacles is getting people to choose differently, to take a leap of faith. The prevailing attitude of ‘we did this last year, it worked well, let’s do it again’ is understandable but lazy thinking and we’re trying to bring out the imagination of individuals saying you could do something better and smarter.”

Bostock cites the example of Newton Investment Management, who backed last weekend’s women’s boat race. “The reward they’ve had in terms of coverage and return on investment is massive because they were a bit brave.”

The Trust’s cause has been helped by the success of events such as the boat race or England’s clash with Germany in November in which the Wembley attendance exceed that of the men’s side’s encounter with Norway two months earlier.

“Instead of saying ‘there is an appetite for women’s sport, honest, trust us’ you can point to a packed stadium. “When you see things like the World Cup coming up or the WSL [Women’s Super League] getting amazing clicks on social media we’re starting to see examples of genuine audience engagement and a challenge to the perceived wisdom.”

The Trust relies upon its volunteers and Bostock welcomes people who think they can contribute to the movement. “We can start to mobilise and make more local changes, from a parent encouraging their child’s school to create more opportunities for girls to play sport, through to pressurising local newspapers to increase their coverage of women’s sport.”

There is a ‘Join the movement’ link on the Trust’s website, which is also where sport fans can vote in the #BeAGameChanger Awards. “We want people to have a say and to share their stories of these remarkable women with their friends.”

Women’s sport has come a long way but the race is far from run.

To join the Women’s Sport Trust movment visit www.womenssportrust.com. To vote in the #BeAGameChanger Awards visit www.womenssporttrust.com/beagamechanger-awards-2015/ by April 19

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