Women's sport 'attracts 0.5% of all sponsorship'

Baroness Grey-Thompson says report reveals 'depressing state of affairs' less than a year before Olympics and says broadcasters and sponsors must do more

There is a "chronic lack of investment" in women's sport in the UK from sponsors and broadcasters despite increased interest from spectators and viewers, a new study claims.

Baroness Grey-Thompson, Britian's most successful Paralympian and chair of the Commission on the Future of Women's Sport, said the report revealed a "depressing state of affairs" less than a year before the London Olympics.

The report claims that there is more interest than ever in events such the women's football World Cup, which took place in Germany this year, but that sponsorship of women's elite sport in the UK amounted to just 0.5% of the total market between January 2010 and August 2011.

That compared to 61.1% for men's sport over the same period, with mixed sports accounting for the remainder of the market.

"In just a few months, the eyes of the world will be on London 2012 – the only occasion in our lifetime that we'll be a global showcase for women's elite sport in this country," said Grey-Thompson. "It's disappointing that more brands and rights holders haven't seized the opportunity to benefit themselves and women's sport, and help create a lasting legacy."

The sports and Olympics minister, Hugh Robertson, said it was "disappointing that women's sport continues to get nowhere near the same backing as men's from the commercial sector".

He added: "Without the backing of sponsors and broadcasters, women's sport will continue to face an uphill battle to get the recognition it deserves. London 2012 though will have a positive impact and shine a spotlight on women's sport and we need to capitalise on that."

The Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, which has also previously criticised the lack of media coverage given to women's sport and the lack of diversity on the boards of governing bodies, said the lack of interest shown by sponsors and broadcasters continued to have an impact at grassroots level.

"Despite some growth in participation over the past five years, 80% of women and girls – half the UK population – are not playing enough sport or doing enough exercise to benefit their health," said WSFF chief executive Sue Tibballs. "Associated illness from physical inactivity costs the UK taxpayer billions each year and it's forecast that the majority of women will be overweight in 20 years. A nation of more active women, inspired in part by our leading sportswomen, could make a massive difference in reversing this trend."

While the report detected some positive signs in the investment by Investec – the bank and asset manager – in women's hockey, Fiat in netball and various partners in the new FA Women's Super League, Grey-Thompson said it was not happening fast enough. "If we don't make an impact in the next year, we're going to lose this opportunity," she said.


Owen Gibson, Olympics editor

The GuardianTramp

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