The Government will on Wednesday be urged to tackle “deeply misogynistic behaviours” in British sport and introduce new regulation to safeguard female athletes.
A House of Commons debate, which has been proposed by Alex Davies-Jones, the MP for Pontypridd, will outline “sexist, homophobic and misogynistic experiences that women have faced across a range of sports” and raise concerns over the funding and visibility during the Covid-19 crisis.
Davies-Jones has been gathering information ahead of the debate and reported anecdotes ranging from sexual harassment and fears over the future financial viability of women’s sport to gender stereotyping that is still making girls feel alienated from activities such as rugby and football.
“I am particularly concerned that fears around misogyny is having an impact on the number of women participating in sport,” Davies-Jones will tell MPs.
“If we are to reduce misogyny and sexism within sport, then we must do more to encourage variety at the first opportunity. A huge part of this battle lies with us all – we all have a responsibility to call out misogyny and sexism.”
The charity Women in Sport has reported that 1.5 million fewer women than men participate in sport at least once a month and there are clear and significant gender gaps in the number of women working in sport at every level.
Davies-Jones will also contrast the speed at which elite men’s sport, especially football, was able to return during the Covid-19 pandemic compared to the women’s game. “The suspension of top-level football was initially applied equally to both the men’s and women’s competitions,” she will say. “But when games were allowed to start up again, the FA cancelled the Women’s Super League and Championship matches. By contrast, the men’s Premier League and Championship games were able to resume play. Many women’s elite teams are tied to, or subsidiaries of professional men’s clubs. When the men’s clubs hit hard financial times, they often cut ties with the women’s team to save money.”
Abuse allegations will also be raised. “We all saw the disgraceful stories in the news about the situation in British Gymnastics which only just scratches the surface of what is a systemic problem,” she will say. “The sports industry urgently needs more regulation. The UK Government has a responsibility to engage proactively with governing bodies to support women.”