Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012: Legacy - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation

  The Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) is the charity that campaigns to make physical activity an integral part of life for women and girls in the UK.

WSFF welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee's consultation on Olympic Legacy. WSFF would like to focus our response on the following two key areas:

    1. Progress towards meeting targets to increase grass roots participation in sport.

    2. How success in delivering a lasting legacy can be measured.

  To take these in reverse order, our response to the second question is as follows:

    — The participation legacy of increasing the numbers taking part in sport and physical activity by one million each should continue to be measured by Sport England's Active People survey.

    Sport England uses the Active People survey to measure their progress towards the target of getting one million more people playing sport by 2012. It can be easily expanded to measure the Department of Health's target of increasing the numbers of people who are physically active by one million.

    WSFF is supportive of Active People's continued use to measure the London Olympic and Paralympic participation legacy. It produces thorough data and can be an effective means for the Government to measure two key targets which sit across two different departments. It also has important side benefits for sports deliverers, providing them with detailed information which helps them plan their activity the most effective ways.

  In response to the first question, our key points are:

    — WSFF recognises that 2012 must deliver a lasting legacy of grassroots participation if the Government is going to deliver on its promise to the British people when it won the bid. So far, there has been a critical lack of leadership to convince us and others that this legacy will be delivered, so we are very concerned about progress towards targets.

    — Of specific concern to us is the real risk that even if there is an increase in participation, this will not substantially include women. Women's participation already seriously lags behind that of men (only 12.7% of women compared to 20.6% of men participate in at least three 30 minute sessions of sport per week) and is going down while men's is going up (Active People 3 data).[10] Women are also a very different marketplace: women tend to take part in different activities, have different motivations and face some specific barriers. For this reason, it is vital that the participation legacy for 2012 should not just focus on sport, but should also include physical activity.

    — To date, women's interests have not been well-served by sport policy and sport delivery. In the past, women have been bundled up with other minorities as a "hard to reach" group. This has meant strategies for women tend to form part of equality strategies rather than core business strategies. This has resulted in initiatives aimed at women being "added on" rather than "built-in". In addition, previous targets to increase women's participation have been dropped and funded sports no longer face any explicit penalties if they fail to engage and recruit women. Risk—gender duty.

    — Meanwhile, the opportunity that 2012 represents should be more fully recognised: the Beijing Games were watched by more women globally than men. Many of our real sporting heroines excel in sports that we only see during the Games. The London 2012 Games present a "once in a generation" opportunity to inspire more women and girls to be active and to reverse the historic gender bias in British sport.

    — While we are concerned about the lack of progress, WSFF also believes that women present a tremendous opportunity: in fact, we believe women represent the biggest space for sport to grow. If concerted action is taken now, we believe we can inspire a million more women to take part in sport and physical activity (50% of the Government's target). To achieve this, we recommend the following steps are taken:


    — The Government's 2012 legacy target to get two million more people physically active (including one million through sport) should be split by gender to ensure strategists and providers are explicitly required to attract female participants. — Those championing the 2012 legacy and providing the leadership need to be helped to understand the particular challenges and opportunities represented by the women's market.

    — Government needs to use its influence to encourage sports bodies to appoint more women to senior positions. Currently only one in five of senior decision-makers in sport is female, which means that a female perspective is often missing from high level debates and decision-making. Reputationally, British sport should also be working harder to ensure it is an inclusive and progressive sector given the eyes of the world will be upon us in 2012.

    — The British sports media also needs to give more priority to women's sport. Typically only 2% to 5% of all sports media coverage is devoted to women's sport. Given its unique remit and so influence, Government should require the BBC to work harder to promote women's sport.


    — A high level political strategy to increase women's participation should be produced as a partnership between DCMS, DoH and DCFS setting out clearly both the issues and the opportunity. — The main sporting bodies—Sport England, UK Sport and the Youth Sports Trust—should also give a much more explicit commitment to growing women's and girls' participation and agree clear strategies for achieving this.

    — As part of its strategy, Sport England should consider re-introducing penalties for those sports who fail to show a clear commitment and strategy to reach more women, or who fail to set and meet targets.

    — Every Local Area Agreement should be encouraged to include an Olympic branded physical activity participation target. Sport England and the Department of Health hold responsibility for the two million participation target. However, WSFF believes that local authorities have a crucial role to play in driving up participation as part of the Olympic Legacy in their areas. Currently only 53% of Local Area Agreements (LAAs) contain NI8 "Adult Participation in Sport and Active Recreation". We would like to see all 150 LAAs adopting a 2012 Legacy target for increasing participation in sport and physical activity, broken down by gender. This would allow local areas to use the power of the Olympic brand to tailor their participation programmes to meet the needs of their local community. Local authorities could be incentivised to include this target with the introduction of a Department of Health and Department of Culture Media and Sport match funding investment pot for physical activity and sport schemes.


    — There should be a greater focus on mass participation events as part of the participation legacy of the Games. WSFF believes that mass participation events should be a crucial part of the participation legacy programme for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Not only do they encourage more people to be active, but they also being communities together and can take the Olympic legacy to areas of the UK outside of London.

      Experience shows that mass participation events are particularly good at motivating women to become more active. Well established mass participation events such as Race for Life and Sky Rides have proven to be very popular with women and girls who enjoy the social, goal orientated, professionally organised aspects of them.

    WSFF would therefore recommend Olympic and Paralympic branded mass participation runs, swims and bike rides to be held in cities across the UK each year approaching 2012 and for at least two years thereafter.




  2.7 million women (12.7%) take part in regular sport every week but this has fallen by 61,000 since 2007-08. During this period men's participation has increased by 176,600 to 4.2 million.

  Comprehensive information on participation in sport and physical activity can be found at http://wsf.org.uk/documents/Participation_factsheet_November_09.pdf


    School sport is turning girls off sport

      A quarter of women are put off sport for life due to their experiences during PE at school. Schools should consult with their female pupils to find out what they would like to participate in during PE and act accordingly.

    To increase the participation of the whole nation in sport it is crucial to understand the barriers women face when accessing sport. Specific barriers that women face include:

    Being active is perceived as being unattractive

    Girls currently grow up with a different set of expectations from boys: society teaches them that it is attractive to be decorative and passive rather than physically active. We need to challenge these deep rooted assumptions. A nation that celebrates active women needs to be created. Sport must be redefined and re-branded to make it cool and fun for girls. Women's sport and sportswomen need to be better promoted and celebrated.

    Women's sport doesn't get the coverage it deserves in the media

    On average, between 2-5% of sports coverage in national and local print media is dedicated to women's sport. This leads to a dearth of female role models to inspire sportswomen and create the next generation of healthy, active women.

    Sport doesn't currently meet women's needs

    Women are motivated to take part in physical activity for different reasons than men. They want to enjoy physical activity with their family and friends, and take part in exercise to feel good about themselves. To motivate more women the sport sector should adopt a consumer orientated approach. Lessons can be learned from the retail sector, for example, an arena where women feel comfortable. For sport this means showers that work, with clean well lit changing rooms that allow for privacy and have hair dyers and even hair straightners provided. For most women their motivation for getting involved in sport is not about winning or competition. Women and girls respond better to the social, health and well-being benefits of physical activity than competition. Only 36% enjoy the competitiveness of sport compared to 61% of men.

    Sport is run by men

    Women are under-represented in the sports sector. This can make some feel that they do not belong. Only one in five members of boards of NGBs are women and one quarter of sports have no women in board positions at all. The LOCOG Board itself only has 1 woman on its Board of 18 individuals. Sport must adopt best practice in corporate governance that achieves fair, open and transparent recruitment process.

    Inflexibility of sporting activities

    Team sport is usually played at regular set times during the week, yet many women, particularly those who have caring responsibilities and/or work full time, do not feel they can make a commitment that involves regular, inflexible training and match times. Women can find it difficult to access a sport at a level that suits them. There is a lack of introductory sessions for team sport, and new participants are often deterred by expectations that they will play in a competitive league. Sport needs to be flexible so women can fit it into their busy lives. At a practical level, payment options should be flexible and women should be able to access facilities at times that suit them. Where possible cre«che and child care facilities should be available at gyms and sport clubs. Policy makers could also consider promoting physical activity that does not require travelling to a club or sports centre, such as walking or jogging, which women often find more flexible and easier to fit into their lives.

January 2010

10   Please find information on the barriers women face to participation as an appendix at the end of this document. Back

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