“What women’s sport particularly needs is that it is seen as important,” said former world athletics champion Sonia O’Sullivan at the launch of a new study commissioned by Liberty Insurance as part of a series of initiatives to map “clearer paths” towards greater participation of women in sport.
The study, called Wise Up, is the first of its kind in Ireland. Conducted by Millward Brown and Onside, it found that more women than men (55 per cent to 45 per cent) described themselves as “exercise active”.
However, it revealed that men are more than two to one likely to participate in team sports; and that female participation in team sports was a particular concern among schoolgirls, where only 45 per cent took part, compared with 64 per cent of boys.
Speaking at the survey’s launch at Croke Park, broadcaster and author Clare Balding remarked that identifying a sporting talent was best done at schools.
“It needs good identification,” she said, “girls’ being targeted early and saying, ‘have you thought about this sport?’ There has to be a more professional outlook to get better results, [to be] more professional, more efficient” in talent spotting.”
Key results of the survey found that women have the highest participation levels in low contact sports such as swimming, running and cycling.
Also, women were more likely to watch male sport on television, with rugby (36 per cent), soccer (29 per cent), Gaelic football (25 per cent), tennis (24 per cent) and hurling (20 per cent) as the top five.
More media coverage
In response to the question of what would be the most effective way of involving more women in sport, 59 per cent of women identified “greater support from schools” as the key factor.
Meanwhile, 54 per cent of men surveyed said that “more media coverage” was what was most needed.
One interesting finding in the survey was that 73 per cent of those who currently attend live sporting fixtures also did so as children, although more men (six in 10) than women (four in 10) were brought to major sporting events by their parents.
This finding has led Liberty Insurance to launch a pledging campaign (#SupportHerSport) to encourage parents and families to bring their daughters, sisters, nieces and granddaughters to a women’s sporting fixture this year.