As I was watching the England women’s cricket team’s spirited efforts in today’s Ashes match at Lord’s, the FA was announcing the departure of Hope Powell, our country’s most prominent woman sport coach. This followed the England team’s poor performance in the recent UEFA European Championships.
The departure of Hope Powell brings mixed emotions for me. Not only did she demonstrate some positive successes over her 15 year tenure as England and GB women’s football coach, she is also an inspirational role model for diversity, being both black and gay. Hope is a talented coach who I believe could achieve much if she were able to lead a professional team with sufficient resources. Unfortunately with the lack of investment in women’s sport at the moment, that is only ever going to be a men’s football side.
And that was Hope’s own observation on leaving the job today. It was reported by the BBC that she said that ‘the domestic game needed more investment if the national team wanted to compete with leading nations.’
Women’s football is a fabulous game and the players have huge skill and talent. And the same can be said of women players in virtually every other sport. And yet with notable exceptions like tennis, we so rarely see any significant media coverage of women’s sport. Of course without media coverage, commercial sponsorship is hard to secure and without appropriate income, the players remain amateurs or at best semi-professional.
If we are to see women sportspeople, especially in team sports, excelling at the top international level, we must initially have greater investment in domestic competitions – by sponsors, the media, governing bodies, and the sports councils. I am sure that there is interest out there amongst potential spectators (the Lord’s grandstand and Pavillion were pretty full today) and players, but opportunities need to be created for the development of teams where those players can thrive. Now is the time to make the investment for the future of women’s sport.