Women’s Sports? You Bet!

If we’ve learnt anything this year it’s that women’s sports are on the up.

As participation in various sports grows, the woman’s game is becoming more popular and commercial by the day, boosting its gambling attraction.

And you don’t have to look far for the evidence. The women’s cricket World Cup Final at Lord’s in July was a sell-out with all 26,500 tickets snapped up, and the England girls’ victory over hotly fancied India will only boost the game’s attraction to sponsors.

It just goes to show how times have changed – in 1975 when the first men’s World Cup Final was held at Lord’s, women weren’t even allowed to play on the game’s hallowed ground and “one of the last bastions of male superiority” according to Clare Connor, director of England women’s cricket and a former England captain.

There’s still a long way to go, with just over 10 percent of televised sports coverage dedicated to women’s sports, even less than a decade ago, despite growing attraction from fans of the games, but this is set to change with the FA, the Rugby Football Union and England and Wales Cricket Board spending more on the women’s game.

Tonight could mark a breakthrough with Channel 4 expecting record viewing figures when England’s female footballers take on hosts the Netherlands in the Euro 2017 semi-finals following the 3.3 million audience – the largest ever for the women’s game – who watched the Lionesses beat France in the quarter final last Sunday.

“It’s been a unique summer for women’s sport,” said Kelly Simmons, director of the national game and women’s football at the FA. “There are still a lot of people out there who haven’t seen top level women’s football, then they tune in … and are perhaps surprised by the level of the game and how strong and fit and quick those players are.”

And if England win tonight’s game, which is also on BBC Radio 5, to make it to the final, it’s sure to boost the sport’s commercial – and gambling – potential.

Wayne Rooney helped support the cause this week when he tweeted his congrats to the England women’s football team after they beat France, adding to media coverage and drawing the attention of his 15 million twitter followers to the women’s game.

Even some of the more negative, sexist coverage can boost attention to women’s sports.

Just this week, ahead of the Women’s Open at Kingsbarns, the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) made headlines after it introduced a new dress code prohibiting women golfers from wearing leggings, short skirts or sporting tops with “plunging necklines” and drew criticism from British number one – and ranked number 25 in the world – Charley Hull.

“I don’t wear any of them, so it doesn’t really affect me,” she said on her BBC Sport column. “But I think it’s a shame, as many people label golf old-fashioned and we need to move away from that. Golf needs to be more original and athletic. If you look at most golfers, I don’t think they look that good. If the clothes were cool, more people would play and watch it,” the 21-year added.

But as they say, all news is good news, so perhaps even sexist media coverage is beneficial – after all, it gets people talking – men included – and boosts interest in the women’s game.

It’s set to be an action-packed week for the girls, starting today, as UK double Olympic sailing gold medallist Sarah Ayton takes the saddle in front of 25,000 people at the Glorious Goodwood festival.

With the Euros, the Golf Open and Goodwood in the line-up, the women’s game is most definitely on the up… and all bets are on!

The odds on England to beat the Netherlands this evening and make it to the final of Euro 2017 are 13/10. So what are you waiting for? Get behind the Lionesses and cheer them home!

Words by Georgina Barnard