Wales

London 2012: Women 'missing out' - Tanni Grey-Thompson

Baroness Grey-Thompson
Image caption Baroness Grey-Thompson said there was a "massive under investment" in women's sport

Eleven-times Paralympic champion Baroness Grey-Thompson says the UK is "spectacularly missing" opportunities in women's sport ahead of the Olympics.

She was speaking after a new report from the Commission of the Future of Women's Sport showing there is a chronic lack of investment.

The Cardiff-born athlete, commission chair, said many sportswomen struggled.

Sports marketing executive Nigel Currie said women's sport did not receive enough exposure.

The report shows that sponsorship of women's sport in the UK makes up 0.5% of the total market.

This compares to 61% for men over the same period, between January 2010 and August this year. The remainder of the money goes to mixed sports.

Baroness Grey-Thompson said: "Although it's quite hard to find data, what we have found is that there's a massive under investment (in women's sport).

Aspirational

"In the lead up to the (Olympic) games next year there's some women who are doing well and they figure fairly high up in individual sponsorship deals, but the majority of women in sport really struggle."

She said it was difficult to know why women's sport suffered from a lack of investment.

"It's a real challenge because people are saying that women are as skilled as men, as aspirational so it doesn't quite make sense," she added.

"I'm not quite sure that sponsors don't see the opportunity or what it is, we just know there's a big mismatch here."

Mr Currie said: "The big problem is that the TV executives aren't spending enough, or prepared to spend enough, on women's sport.

"Until they do the sponsors are going to stay away because at the moment there's just not enough exposure for certain women's sports, and they're not developing a big enough long-term following."

Broader implications

Baroness Grey-Thompson added: "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 sport in this country.

"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."

Baroness Grey-Thompson won 11 gold medals at four Paralympics - her first in Barcelona in 1992.

A charity which campaigns to get more women more active fears the lack of investment in elite women's sport has broader implications.

Sue Tibballs, chief executive of the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation, said: "Lack of investment accounts, in large part, for the absence of a female sporting culture in the UK.

"Women's sport is not widely promoted and its competitors are not being publicly presented as fit and healthy sporting role models to inspire women and girls to be physically active.

"This is at a time when 80% of women and girls, half the UK population, are not playing enough sport or doing enough exercise to benefit their health."

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