With the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the rear-view mirror, it feels like a good time to look at how the sports industry regards its members especially women, you know the people who should be running the world. In this day and age, we’re all about equality, diversity, and inclusivity. But is it all lip service when it comes to sports— is the sports industry measuring up or messing up. Well, it seems to be the latter.

For one, there seems to be a general feeling that sportswomen are denied the opportunity to become ambassadors, earning less than men. According to Laura Weston, “brands are not confident enough when it comes to assessing the opportunity of sponsoring women’s sports…They’re looking for traditional metrics of sports sponsorship, but that’s completely changing”. Looks like the sports industry has some catching up to do and needs to do it fast!

The Sportswomen as Brand Ambassador’s Project

Emmanuel Mogaji at the University of Greenwich recently published a report entitled, ‘Sportswomen as Brand Ambassadors’. The report looked at the challenges, opportunities, and prospects for sportswomen to have equal opportunities to improve their commercial viability and boost their revenue with brand sponsorship. Like it’s too much to ask for.

Although there are opportunities for brand sponsorship, it was found that there are some key issues sportswomen face in the industry:

  1. Sport is gendered—limitations due to gender, strength and society, motherhood and raising children. Sportswomen feel like they have to justify their talent and compare their success to male counterparts which reinforce the insignificance of sportswomen in the industry.
  2. The sexualisation of sportswomen—societal beauty standards undermine their talent and achievement.
  3. The vicious cycle of male popularity—one quote from one of the interviewed sportswomen is particularly telling— ‘… you sort of appreciate the little they give you, it’s like the crumbs from the table of sportsmen…’

Ultimately, women in sport are undervalued, compared to impossible standards as the industry appears somewhat sexist. A prime example of how the industry undermines women are Serena and Venus Williams, two of the few black sportswomen to dominate a sport that has both white and privileged roots. Quoted as saying, “I’m underrated because I’m a woman” and if I were a man, I would have 100 per cent been considered the greatest ever a long time ago”, Serena Williams has spoken out about some of the ism’s eating up the industry creating an ism monster.

Every day we’re increasingly hearing news items about pay gaps and inequality among men and women. Too infrequently we hear the good news that a woman has become the boss she always has been. Equality, diversity, and inclusion are fine, but talk is cheap.


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