For many years, male sports has dominated coverage in the media. However, female sports participation is now on the rise in the United Kingdom, so what has been put in place to see female sport increase and why are women now becoming more active?

Figures published by a Sport England survey found that female sports participation is increasing with statistics reaching an all-time high, with 7.21 million females now participating in sport.

The Sport England survey shows that there is now a difference of just 1.5 million between males and females playing sport.

A new female sports campaign, #ThisGirlCan, was formed in 2014 and then relaunched in 2017.

#ThisGirlCan logo

The campaign resulted in a range of advertising material being published, including a television advert, to attract more females into sport.

Figures released from the ‘Active People Survey’ by Sport England, found the number of female sports participants has increased by 250,000 since the campaign was introduced, with 2.8 million women doing some or more activity in sport because of the campaign.

Kate Dale, Head of Brand and Digital Strategy at Sport England, said: “Sport England recognize that more men were regularly taking part in sport and activity than women, yet 75% of women told us they wanted to be more active.

“We drilled into the research and identified a range of emotional barriers that lay behind the practical reasons people often give up sport. These could be around appearance, ability or conflicting priorities.

“Our campaign tackled these fears by celebrating the fabulous but everyday women who were managing their own fears. We streetcast relatable women and photographed them doing the activities they normally do.

#ThisGirlCan advertising poster. Sport England ©

“They shared their stories and we used humour, attitude and authenticity to connect with the target audience. They related to the women we showcased and thought ‘If they can do it, I can too.’

“We also celebrated the women who were a bit rubbish at sport, like me, as well as the ones who were rather good. It’s more important to us that you are doing it rather than that you are constantly smashing your personal best.”

Universities across the United Kingdom have backed the campaign with an aim of attracting more females into sport, Teesside University being one of the universities involved.

Pip Bell, Sports Development Officer for Participation at Teesside University, said: “I think lots of females are now getting into sports because of Sport England’s campaign, #ThisGirlCan.

Teesside University women’s football team, currently with 22 females in their squad.

“It’s now massively present on TV and radio and really is out there to attract females to get into sport.

“I think the campaign is fantastic as it shows that any female can just get involved in sport, no matter how much they contribute.

“It’s not just about how you look when taking part in sport, and the campaign has been really successful in showing the everyday female, it’s just fantastic.”

£130 million has been invested into sports participation by Sport England with £3.1 million going towards #ThisGirlCan.

Teesside University is one of the many universities across the country to have received funding for female sport.

Pip said: “We’ve received lots of funding guided to getting more females into sport here at Teesside.

“Through the funding we’ve managed to be able to offer a lot more free female sports sessions for students, including yoga and zumba, aimed at females who currently aren’t participating in our BUCS teams or not linked to a club but may have the time to spare half an hour to participate in sport.”

Lisa Mae, a Journalism graduate from London, who was inspired by the #ThisGirlCan campaign, said: “I had bought some running shoes before the original advert came out but I hadn’t found the courage to actually get outside and start running.

“The advert made me realise that I shouldn’t care what people think; in fact, people tend to admire those trying to get fit more than those who are effortlessly healthy.

“Knowing that there are other women above a size 10 who were pounding the pavements was a big help when I eventually left my front door and started running around the city.”

Clara Biu from London said: “I saw the ThisGirlCan advert on a rainy weekend morning, where I could easily have curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea.

“Seeing the ad reminded me of how rewarding and enjoyable exercise can be, and why I’d be disappointed if I took the lazy option.

“The reason the campaign strikes a chord is because it doesn’t come from a place of self-loathing; it doesn’t stipulate an unattainable end goal, which if you fail to achieve renders you ‘not good enough’. It’s about the sweat, pain and joy of being active – without any judgement.”

Click here to find out more about female sports.

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