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The Women’s Rugby World Cup and raising the profile of women's sport


The Women’s Rugby World Cup and raising the profile of women's sport

Ruth Holdaway, chief executive of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation shares her insights on what the Women's Rugby World Cup does for women's sport coverage and the demand for more.

It’s only August and 2014 is already shaping up to be another landmark year for women’s sport. Already we’ve seen female athletes hit the heights at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games (literally for those taking part in Olympic ski jumping for the very first time), break new ground at the Commonwealth Games, and now the Women’s Rugby World Cup is in full swing in France.

In England, rugby fans should have a vested interest in the Women’s World Cup. The national team has, after all, been finalists at each of the last three tournaments. And with Ireland having beaten New Zealand for the first time in their history in the group stages within days of this year’s tournament starting, England (and many others) must feel confident of wresting the trophy from the Black Ferns’ grasp for the first time since the 1998 final.

There is a more serious issue at hand. Research from the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation’s 2014 Women’s Sport: Say Yes to Success report shows that women’s sport receives just 7% of sport media coverage. That’s an improvement on the 5% previously recorded, but still a drastically insignificant number. Moreover, the report highlights the shocking state of play regarding commercial investment – namely, that a scarcely believable 0.4% of commercial investment into sport is delivered to women’s sport. Meanwhile, 6 out of 10 sports fans say they want to see more women’s sport on TV.

What this summer’s Rugby World Cup has the chance to demonstrate is that not only do people want to see more women’s sport on TV, but that they are engaging when they have the opportunity to do so. Audience figures and coverage are compelling weapons in a sport’s arsenal when it is seeking to justify greater levels of investment and sponsorship, and increased investment is a major step in a virtuous cycle that leads to improved and extended coverage, greater levels of support, development of the game as a whole and ultimately further improved and extended coverage.

Nor is this just a case of investment and coverage for its own sake. Major events, like the Rugby World Cup, are an opportunity to show women and girls that sports are open to them in the same way as men and boys. If more media coverage can help inspire the next generation of sport stars, it is an opportunity that must be captured.


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Ruth Holdaway


Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 23:00