Is it really surprising that 60% of Irish people haven’t been to a women’s sports event?
Yes. Yes it is. Especially given the success of our female sports stars in recent years, it really, really is.
The card of retaliation that is always called upon when this particular debate is raised is that the standard of women’s sport is simply not the same as in the men’s. In fact, that was actually another number that emerged in the LGFA, LIDL & Red C report that published these statistics.
46% of those they surveyed said that men’s sport is generally better to watch, with the findings also revealing that Irish people are five times more likely to attend a premier men’s event in person than a similar female equivalent.
— Alanna Cunnane (@acunnane10) January 10, 2024
With that said, if you look at those Irish athletes who have excelled on the world stage in recent years, many of them are actually women, and so the question stands; if you’re a true sports fan, why would you limit yourself to only half the amount of sport available to you?
Never mind the fact that the standards of the women’s game in all codes are always every increasing in athleticism, physicality and general amusement value, but if that were your stance, to quote Gladiator, “Are you not entertained!?!”
You can debate standards all you like, but what makes a game, or a race, or a match good, is more often than not the competition factor, the stakes at hand, and the bravery empowered in the athletes themselves to go and chase the win, no matter the cost.
Yes, media exposure and interesting narratives always help people board along the bandwagon (see Meath LGFA’s All Ireland success story or the Irish WNT’s qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup as examples), but in reality what needs to change in order for the scales to be balanced, is for the average Joe just to take a leap of faith…..and go.
What’s interesting is that while these statistics present a view that that final hurdle is yet to be crossed for many people, there are numerous studies that there has been a subtle change, in mind if not body.
The 2023 Teneo Sport & Sponsorship Index (#tssi23) launched today reveals the public's views on the sporting year. @katietaylor remains undefeated as Most Admired Athlete, men's @irishrugby is named Team of the Year and the @olympics is the event we are Most Looking Forward to pic.twitter.com/CG8qjpH88j
— Teneo Ireland (@TeneoIreland) December 20, 2023
If you examine Teneo’s Sports Sponsorship Index which is published every year now before Christmas and looks into the general Irish public’s attitudes towards sport across gender, region, age, and social class, there is somewhat of a contrasting story to be perceived.
Three of the seven top most admired sports stars throughout the country are women, in Katie McCabe (4%), Racheal Blackmore (6%) and Katie Taylor (20%), the latter of whom has held the top spot for seven years running now.
Taylor’s rematch with Chantelle Cameron is also equal to that of the Irish men’s rugby team’s grand slam win when it comes to the greatest sporting achievement of the year, on 25% each, while the women’s football team fall just short to the men’s rugby team for the team of the year vote, on 25% to their 29%.
Katie Taylor is Ireland's most 'admired' athlete for the SEVENTH consectuive year - according to Teneo Sport and Sponsorship Index.
Great to see three sportswomen in there!
What do you think? Reckon she is? Who else would you have up there?#KatieTaylor #IrishSport pic.twitter.com/iqhBsQYWSZ
— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) December 21, 2023
So while the tide of change is churning in perception, the next frontier is to feel that on the ground in foot fall.
Those role models are fantastic for inspiring change, but if we’re to see a better situation for future generations, those grassroots initiatives have to be given the chance they deserve too.
As always, the key areas are attendance, participation and sponsorship, and although that’s a three pronged approach, much like like the chicken and egg idiom, they all need to be backed in tandem in order to see growth.
Whether that involves you getting out to see Katie McCabe and the Irish WNT in Tallaght Stadium, or to your local Women’s Premier Division game once the season kicks off, or in any such equivalent with Ellen Keane in swimming, Rachael Blackmore in horse riding, Katie Taylor in boxing, Ayeisha McFerran in hockey and…I could go on…but I’m off to plan out my Sunday’s worth of sporting action.
It’s a packed schedule because, I don’t know about the 60% of Irish people haven’t been to a women’s sports event, but I’ve double the amount of sporting action on offer.
— Her Sport (@HerSportDotIE) February 1, 2024