The year 2020 will forever go down in history as the year that changed everything. From how people work, to the way businesses evolved just to survive. Women’s sports were no exception!
Even before the pandemic shook everything to the core, women’s sports have always had more than their fair share of challenges. The pandemic only shone a brighter and bigger spotlight on what happens when a section of the sporting community is more vulnerable than the rest.
COVID-19 impacted almost everyone in sports but it’s important to zero in on its impact on women’s sports as they, by many standards, were probably hit the hardest:
1. Financial Challenges
When the pandemic started, all sporting events had to be cancelled or postponed, with some events eventually just moving to sports streaming services. Subsequently, it found many unprepared female sports players off guard, with their incomes abruptly cut.
All of a sudden, all matches that had been lined up were indefinitely postponed, which meant most female sportspersons found themselves with exacerbated financial challenges.
Even popular sports like football felt the hit. If big organisations like FIFPro felt the impact of the virus and lost a lot of revenue, threatening many football players’ lives, you can just imagine how things are looking for smaller and less represented sports!
While many people will remember the season that just passed as a summer without sport, for many football players, it’ll just go down as a season where they almost lost their livelihoods. It’s a dire situation, one that will leave scars even long after the virus is gone.
Add that to the fact that most women in sports work without proper contracts, which exposes them even more as they aren’t protected or guaranteed to get any sort of payment beyond the discretion of their clubs.
For most women in sports, the absence of a contract that stipulates what should be done in times of unexpected occurrences like the pandemic has made it more impossible for them to get paid, perhaps not until everything returns to normal.
2. More Difficulties In Trying To Get Sponsorships
Raising funds has always been difficult for women in sports, either for the club or as an individual player. So, it’s not surprising that sponsorships have since ranged from non-existent to scarce.
Because of the pandemic, the biases that favours men’s sports and their prioritisation have become more obvious. Most sporting organizations that fund sports usually start with men’s sports before getting to women’s sports. In situations like these, where even the main sources of funds have been affected financially by the pandemic, funds often hardly reach female clubs, and when they do, the amount is paltry.
Because the pandemic has been going on for quite a while now, one can only wonder how even the best women in sports can come back from this prolonged setback.
The pandemic has emphasized the existing problems in women’s sports and these challenges might even set back some of the most significant progress that had been happening over the years as women were becoming more represented and motivated to join professional sports. For one, the lack of institutional support might affect their motivation.
It’s also important to note that as sportspeople, in general, are rescheduling their previously cancelled or postponed events, the women’s sports calendar is again taking the back burner. The same issue can be seen in other sports as well.
The same frustrations came to the fore when the UEFA Women’s European Championships suffered a delay in rescheduling. This delay is a problem as it affects how women sportspersons plan their events, especially so they can move forward even just a little.
That the UEFA body treated this almost as an afterthought, points to a problem that’s yes, deep-seated, but critically damaging to sporting progress among women in these already trying times.
So, what was eventually decided about the Women’s Euros? Well, they did get rescheduled, but not without hitting another major hump. They are now scheduled for 6-31 July 2023, which overlaps with the Birmingham Common Wealth 2023. It’s not yet clear how that will work out but hopefully, as a result of this inconvenient rescheduling, they don’t wind up being overshadowed by the Birmingham Commonwealth 2023.
These and more oversights have significantly disturbed women’s sports and revealed a deep-seated underrepresentation of women.
Not all sports are equal. Well, they are supposed to be, but the reality is they aren’t. With the unequal opportunities aggravated by the pandemic, the result was also full of unequal impacts.
Women’s sports have already been vulnerable before the pandemic, the pandemic has just exacerbated things and made it more apparent than it would have been without the pandemic.