Looking back at Everything in Sport’s Women Edition conference at the London Stadium

Everything in Sport hosted a wonderful event at the London Stadium on the 3rd and 4th of December, and one that is so important for recognising women’s sport and understanding further how we can continue to grow it.

The event played host to some wonderful speakers who all had a very important message to share with expertise to help us all understand and improve. The panellists included the likes of Rebecca Myers from the Sunday Times, Jon Dutton from the Rugby League World Cup, Jo-Anne Downing from the LTA & Emma Ross from the English Institute of Sport.

We want to discuss some of the most fascinating talking points we witnessed and learned from, starting with day 1. The event opened with a talk led by Debbie Jevans of the English Football League before Roisin O’Shea, Jenny Leach, Tom Burstow, John Neal & Denise Westhaeusler talked about engagement for girls in sport. They wanted to debate and look into how we break current trends at grassroots level, and one of the solutions that was offered came down to coaching in, something they said that even in women’s sports is predominantly dominated by men.

Inspiring young athletes a lot of the time comes down to presenting them with people they can relate to and want to learn from, and so female coaches are important for ensuring girls see a role model they can aspire to be like. Denise mentioned punditry as well, saying that we need more women on TV so girls can say “I want to be like her.”

Kelly Simmons spoke later in the day, and the Director of the Women’s game for the FA raised some fascinating stats and main talking points from the Women’s World Cup in France this summer, a tournament that did wonders for the growth of women’s football. One of the most fascinating bits of research raised by Kelly was that football fans are starting to move from supporting a single team within a club (e.g. the men’s team) and are now paying far more attention to a club as a whole, therefore becoming a fan of everything the club is doing in all competitions. This means academy football, and most certainly women’s football, is getting far more interest than ever before, especially from traditionally mens-team-following football fans.

Jack Sullivan, son of David Sullivan at West Ham, was one of the entertainers of the day, speaking with a real passion and spring in his voice, but he backed it up with strong statistics, impressive work and showed he really understands the industry he’s in as well as the tasks that lie ahead.

At around 11:15am, Emma Butterworth, Senior Associate at Gateley Legal, stepped up to deliver a keynote discussing whether there’s a need for positive discrimination. The concept for positive discrimination is essentially the “practice or policy of favouring individuals belonging to groups known to have been discriminated against previously.” Despite the argument that PD might begin to correct and balance history, Emma is firmly against the idea of this.

She believes that a candidate has to get the role on merit and merit alone, and that is why she’s keen to ensure that no positive discrimination occurs in the workplace. If it were to occur, then it can create greater issues whereby men being discriminated against may resent the thought of a push for equality. It’s vital that opportunities are genuinely equal for all.

Joanna Gamper Cuthbert, Chair of Sport Cheer England, then joined a panel with Eleanor Rowland and Anju Solanki. She believes the sport needs to move away from stereotypes and make uniform (amongst other things) far more neutral in order to engage with and improve male participation. Uniform has forever been a matter that divides people and sets a tone or trend, so the removal of this factor may make it far easier for everyone to engage more easily. With cheer-leading, Joanna thinks a more neutral uniform will help increase participation amongst males in the sport, and that’s just one example of the point she was making.

The first day was fascinating, and it led on to a wonderful day 2 as well. The conversation around women in sport was deep, profound, and offered solutions to every dilemma that was discussed. Even Physiological considerations for women in sports was discussed by Alex Kelham, Colin Thomas and Dr Emma Ross as they explained the considerations women must make when engaging in sport and how they can best plan their training month to month.

It was an enlightening day at the London Stadium, and there’s more to come from Everything in Sport as they’re soon to hit Tokyo and London once again in 2020.

 

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