Broadcasters have made significant progress in increasing coverage of women’s sport in recent years. The events covered include the women’s football World cup and Euro championships, the women’s rugby world cup, cycling and tennis. With the success of so many of our women’s sports teams, we should be looking at how many more events can be broadcast to inspire future generations. I will meet broadcasters in the new year to discuss exactly that.
While it is good to hear that UEFA has pledged a 50% increase in funding for women’s football from 2020, particularly in view of the terrific news that the English and Scottish women’s football teams have made the World cup, that translates to only €50,000 extra for each of the 55 member associations. Will this Government commit to match funding that amount for the UK’s associations, with the specific aim of broadening the appeal of women’s football to the broadcast networks?
Of course we will consider that. I know the hon. Lady will be just as excited by the fact that, on 9 June, England and Scotland will play each other in that World cup; all of us will be looking forward to that. She makes the good point that we must make sure that the attractiveness of women’s sport—and, may I say, of disability sport as well—to broadcasters and to everyone is increased, so that we can inspire those who can then see themselves or people like them playing sport and doing so at a high level. That is exactly what I will discuss with broadcasters in the new year.
Women’s Twenty20 cricket is a fantastic spectator and TV sport. May we have it in the Commonwealth games?
We will certainly consider that. I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s advocacy for the game. He is right to say that women’s cricket is starting to take off, and he will know that recently, viewing figures for women’s cricket have increased substantially. It is important that the Commonwealth games showcases in the United Kingdom—and more specifically, he would want me to say, in the west midlands—all such sports in any way we can. He will recognise that decisions on which sports are included are not solely—or indeed at all—a matter for the Government, but I understand his point of view.
My constituent, Amy Tinkler, won an Olympic medal for gymnastics. How can the Secretary of State increase coverage of women’s gymnastics to celebrate our success and inspire the next generation of girls?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady, and I congratulate her constituent. It is important that in gymnastics, as in many other sports, we demonstrate to girls and women that they can participate at a high level, and they should be granted equal coverage and respect for what they do. Broadly speaking that happens in the Olympics, the Commonwealth games and elsewhere, but as I have said, I shall ask broadcasters and sports representative bodies what more we can do to increase the prominence of women’s sport.
Is it notable that there are no women’s team sports on the list of protected events that must be offered live to free-to-air TV? Should events such as the women’s World cup, which is on the BBC next year, be protected so that the whole nation can watch women’s World cups in the future?
I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point, and as he says, the protected list is designed to ensure that people have access on free-to-air television to these important sporting events. As he pointed out, that is already the case for the next women’s World cup, but we must keep such matters under review, and ensure that if there is a risk that big sporting events will not be covered in that way, we do something about it.
I welcome the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Mims Davies) to her place. She has big shoes to fill, but I am sure she will do the job well. I am pleased to hear the Secretary of State’s positive comments, but only 7% of sports media coverage is of women’s sport, which I am sure he will agree is a disgraceful statistic. Will he meet me and my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mhairi Black) to discuss what more can be done to get perhaps 50-50 sports coverage for women’s sport by 2020?
I am happy to meet the hon. Lady, and I share that ambition, as do many broadcasters. Let us take the BBC as a good example. She will know that the BBC has committed to broadcasting 500 extra hours of sport next year, 50% of which will be women’s sport. It is important to recognise that progress is being made, but there is further to go and I am happy to discuss with her what we can do.