Women's Sports: Less than half of professional sports clubs have women on their boards

Sport Industry Breakfast Club

Research released by Farrer & Co has shown that over half of professional sports clubs in England have no female representation on their boards.

The news is especially worrying when you consider that just 8% of board members at professional sports clubs in England are female.

There have been attempts to address this lack of representation at decision-making levels at a national level. Since Sport England introduced a Code for Sports Governance in 2016, national governing bodies must have at least 30% representation of both genders.

Still, just 72% of governing bodies have women making up 30% of their boards and this comes despite financial penalisations for failing to adhere to the rule.

However, it seems Sport England’s rule has not trickled down to club level with 53% of clubs having no women on their boards whatsoever.

Clearly, for any real impact on the opportunities available for women and girls in sports, this needs to be redressed.

Former CEO of England Netball and current Chief Commercial Officer at London Legacy Development Corporation Joanna Adams said the results of the research concerned her.

“It’s concerning where there are women’s teams within these clubs and you do wonder how seriously this is taken.”

“These figures are so disappointing it shows yet again that there is no diversity on these boards even though it is proven that more diverse boards and workforces produce better results.”

“Change has only come where funding depends on it. The sports Code of Governance has made a real change in UK Sport and Sport England funded sports.”

Adams has hit the nail on the head here, without any financial ramifications for these clubs they do not see any reason to act and actively promote diversity in their boards.

Football clubs were shown to have the least gender equality with just seven per cent representation of women on boards. Cricket and rugby, meanwhile, are marginally better with 10% female representation on their respective boards.

Baroness Sue Campbell, the Director of Women’s Football at the FA admitted clubs were behind in the inclusion of women at board level, despite an outward commitment to growing women’s sports domestically.

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“Many clubs are behind on that process of change.

“To ensure there are women with the right skills to take up those positions, we need to make sure that we are supporting them, particularly younger women, by developing leadership skills and attributes. They have a real contribution to make.”

This research from Farrer & Co shows there is still a huge way to go for women’s sports to be supported appropriately.

Without representation at decision-making stages women, and other minorities for that matter, cannot expect to receive the necessary support in their sporting development.

A bottom-up approach needs to be implemented for women and girls to see opportunities in sports from young ages. We need to keep championing diversity in sports for any real change in the opportunities given to women in sport.

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