Support Her Sport 2017
Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy, two-time Olympic athlete Natalya Coyle, former Irish rugby captain Fiona Coghlan, and camogie all-star Mags D’Arcy are four of Ireland’s top female sport stars. Though they come from very different sporting backgrounds, they understand the value of participation in sport for young girls. This is just one of the reasons why Liberty Insurance have chosen them to be part of their new Ambassador programme which was launched on Tuesday, March 7th in Croke Park.
The event brought together experts from the worlds of elite sport, media and business in order to debate and discuss some of the key challenges facing female athletes and women’s sport in general. RTÉ broadcaster Joanne Cantwell hosted a lively panel discussion which centred around the results of a new survey on the Irish perception of women’s sport in Ireland. The research was carried out by Kantar Millward Brown and Onside and highlighted the progress that has been made and the significant gap that remains between men’s and women’s sport.
The discussion focused on attendance at female sporting events as the survey highlighted that three in four people have not attended a major women’s sporting event in the last year. Speaking on stage, Mags D’Arcy called for more coverage and awareness in order to address this, “Attendance comes back to being on the same platform, having the same exposure, having the same production team covering matches.” Mags had a point to make, as other statistics from the day showed that 49% of those surveyed are more aware of women’s sport in Ireland today compared with twelve months ago, though over half (55%) agree that there is not enough coverage of female sports on television in Ireland.
All four ambassadors shared their views on how improvements could be made to encourage female participation: schoolteacher Fiona Coghlan stressed the role parents have to play in persuading their daughters of its value:
“At parent-teacher meetings, you would often hear, ‘oh she’s just not into sport’, and I’m like, ‘what have you tried?’ I just think parents are quick enough to get their boys involved in sport at a young age, but not so quick with their girls. Persist. If they drop out of something, there’s something else out there. We all have to work together on this because it is a problem, but I do think parents have a huge role to play.”
“There is a sport out there for everyone,” said Natalya Coyle, “you just need to keep looking. And you don’t need to be sporty, you just need to be active – and that’s about being healthy, mentally and physically.” “And it’s about persuading girls that sport can be about fun,” said Annalise Murphy, “it can be about socialising, it doesn’t mean participating competitively. It’s just about doing a little bit and finding something you enjoy and making it so it’s part of your social life.”
Other contributors speaking at the event included Una May, Director of Participation and Ethics at Sport Ireland; Rob Hartnett, CEO of Sport for Business; and Deirdre Ashe, Director of Personal Lines of Liberty Insurance.
The survey revealed that Irish men are more active than Irish women; 67% of women consider themselves ‘active’ (versus 55% in 2015), while 70% of Irish men consider themselves active (versus 45% in 2015).
Katie Taylor was found to be the nation’s most admired female sporting personality, followed by former long distance runner Sonia O’Sullivan, and Rio 2016 sailing silver medallist and Liberty Insurance ambassador Annalise Murphy.
Nearly three-quarters (74%) of women aged 17-24 said they have little to no interest in sport. Interestingly though, 24% of women who don’t exercise would like to do more sports but say they don’t know how to get involved.