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Women’s Sport

Volume 558: debated on Thursday 14 February 2013

Will the Minister join me in welcoming the news that Gillingham Anchorians rugby club, which is keen on increasing women’s membership, recently received £50,000 of national lottery funding?

My hon. Friend is a very keen sportsman, and I am not surprised that he raises the important role that women play in rugby. I applaud the work in his constituency to make sure that that is happening. He may be aware that as a result of the Olympics and the Paralympics over 600,000 more women have participated regularly in sport. We can see no finer example of the contribution of women in sport than the women’s six nations tournament, which is going on at the moment. I am sure that every Member in this House will be supporting their home team.

The Secretary of State is right about the achievements of women during the Olympics. The figures show that 36% of medals won at the Olympics were won by women, yet women get less than 1% of the sponsorship. Will she do something to try to redress that significant imbalance?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: sponsorship can be crucial in not only increasing the prominence of women’s sport but in enabling more women to go to an even higher level within their sport. I have been looking at this with people who are setting up support systems. Importantly, I recently held a round table with the press and with governing bodies, because we need to create the demand for such sponsorship, and that is all about creating an increased profile for women in their sporting areas.

The prominence of role models is very important in relation to girls’ participation in sport. Will the Secretary of State update the House on the timetable for improving the broadcasting and reporting of women’s sport?

Improvements in the coverage of women’s sport in the broadcasting or the press sector are up to the editorial control of those organisations. However, I absolutely believe that the Government can have an important role in voicing the nation’s belief that great women’s sport is going on out there that needs support. I have been working with press and broadcast organisations to highlight the great work that they are already doing, but also building on that further.

11. Last night a packed meeting here in Westminster heard from the inspirational Claire Lomas and Martine Wright, both of whom have overcome severe disabilities to take part in their sports. They found their own motivation, but there are many barriers to participation of women and girls in sport. What will the Secretary of State do to encourage the 87% of women in Salford who are not participating to get interested in sport and fitness activities? (143159)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that it is important that we reach out to women to help to increase participation even further. I have already cited the dramatic impact that hosting the Olympics and Paralympics has had in raising participation among women. Some sports have had a particularly successful track record in this area. Netball is one of the fastest growing women’s sports in the country, with participation having increased from 110,000 in 2005 to 158,000 last year. There are also examples in cycling and hockey. There is some good success, but we need to make sure that it is echoed in other areas too.