• Alex Oprea

2016: A New Era for Women in Sports?

The supposed low quality, funding and popularity of women's sports has been argued to be a feminist issue, or a matter of gender-inequality. With statistics showing less than 8% of sports news broadcasts cover women’s sports, despite having lower production value than men’s sports, one can hardly argue. For example, in the USA, the National Women’s Soccer League’s games are only streamed via YouTube, while the Men’s Soccer League, losing approx. $100 million annually, is still featured on channels such as ESPN and FOX Sports.

The 2015 Women’s World Cup (WWC), which took place from June 6th - July 5th of 2015 in six locations across Canada, allowed female athletes to finally be in the world’s spotlight. The 2015 WWC final saw a 77% audience increase in comparison to 2011’s final. There were also record-breaking spectatorship statistics, with stadiums across the country being filled to near-capacity throughout the tournament.

In the past decade, events such as the Olympics, World Cups, and other major sporting events have resulted in more girls becoming involved in sports. The statistics of women and girls in sports consistently see a sudden growth following such events. This is because successful women in the media serve as leaders, mentors, even inspirations for younger girls. Women such as Serena Williams, who dominated the tennis world in 2015, Abby Wambach (a legendary soccer star who recently retired), and others, have served to redefine female athletics on a global scale, and continue to empower girls all over the world. With FIFA’s “Live Your Goals” campaign, the number of girls aged ten and up involved in soccer is hoped to grow from 30 million globally, to 45 million by the next WWC in 2019, through implementing training camps and other events for girls all over the world. “Live Your Goals” is FIFA’s “dedicated development campaign aimed at inspiring girls and young women to get involved in soccer and stay in the game,” said Mayi Cruz-Blanco, FIFA Senior Women’s Football Development Manager. Other such advocacy campaigns are in action as well, such as Canada’s “Women Champions”, and the Women in Sports Commission.

Leading into next year’s Olympics, it is expected that spectatorship and viewer numbers for women’s competition will rival those of men’s events. Although women’s Olympic figure skating and gymnastics have always been extremely popular, I hope that the recent media attention towards female athletes will build support, investment, and appreciation towards upcoming female sports tournaments. 2015 has shed a new light on the athletic ability and global impact of women in sports, creating appreciation and popularity for them leading into 2016 and on.