The Rio Olympics may prove to be the moment when women’s sport in this country finally started to get the platform it deserves.
Laura Trott and co dominated in the velodrome, Nicola Adams won gold again, and Team GB’s victorious hockey side stole the greatest show on earth.
In the year or so since then, the UK’s best have continued winning and, just as importantly, have been seen to be doing so. The England football team has performed valiantly on the global stage, Johanna Konta dominated the headlines on her way to the semi-finals of Wimbledon, and the England cricket team did what the men have never managed, by winning the one-day World Cup this summer.
Add to that the further success of the England rugby team, and it is clear that women’s sport is on the up.
Around 1.1million fans tuned in to watch England overcome France 20-3 in their World Cup semi-final clash on 22 August. The victory set up a mouth-watering final with the Red Roses set to take on New Zealand in Belfast, and with national interest hitting fever pitch ITV schedulers decided to give the game a Saturday night primetime slot.
A peak of 2.6million viewers tuned in to watch a dramatic encounter which sadly saw England give up their crown. The breathless, high scoring game ended in a 32-41 victory for the Black Ferns and despite home fans’ disappointment, showed a significant audience just how exciting world class women’s rugby can be.
This level of interest and growth in women’s sport and its continued march towards the mainstream clearly opens up new opportunities for pubs and bars in terms of attracting a crowd.
Just like the world of sport and the world of TV, pubs and bars are changing. No longer are rooms packed solely with men with beer in hand, shouting at men with a ball at their feet on the big screen. Women in pubs and women in sport represent a whole new opportunity for businesses.
Lee Price is the general manager of the Royal Pier in Aberystwyth and a former winner of that coveted title – the BII Licensee of the Year.
He recognises that there is a change in the air when it comes to women’s sport.
“We are showing as many different sports as we can because these days you have to give people more reasons to want to come and see you.”
He adds: “We had the women’s cricket on over the summer and people were very happy to watch it.
“People have always watched the tennis and the Olympics and don’t really think of it in gender terms. Now you are seeing it happening with football, cricket and rugby as well.”
Lee believes this is in part due to the way that sport is being presented by a more progressive media.
“There are more women presenters and commentators now on all sport, not just women’s, and that makes a difference. People see that they know what they are talking about and that gender is irrelevant.”
One such pundit is Rachel Brown-Finnis, the former England goalkeeper who is part of BT Sport’s football team.
She believes that more venue managers should show women’s football.
The former Everton stopper says: “I’ve been in one or two pubs since I retired and at times I’ve had to tell them it’s on. There are so many varieties of football from National League to Women’s Football, so hopefully people will watch all football and not worry about their preconceptions.”
One pitfall pubs should avoid is gimmicky marketing that could potentially alienate prospective customers.
“Just because it’s women’s football it doesn’t mean you should dress the pub up in pink or have a ‘wear your tight top to work day’,” laughs Rachel
“There’s nothing different about it. Maybe you could sell cocktails or prosecco because for some there will be a novelty about it. I love the game for what it is but I understand that not everyone in society has watched women’s football.”
Lee agrees and says that there is no real gender divide when it comes to watching the footy at the Pier’s pub, The Inn on The Pier.
“20 years ago people would have scoffed at it but I don’t see that happening any more. People are much more open minded to it.
“We are more female-friendly as a business, we have more female customers and more female duty managers. There’s no need for any gimmicky marketing. It is sport and is watched by all sports fans not just women, in the same way that men’s football generally has a broader appeal.”
The trend towards more female and family-friendly outlets is apparent across the country. Driven by the general decline of wet-led premises and the rise of food, pubs and bars have had to adapt. With venues more inclusive and audiences more receptive to it, giving women’s sport a go makes a lot of sense.
Rachel adds that she is optimistic about the future of her sport.
“Hopefully women’s football will have a regular slot on TV and people will know when and how they can access it. There has not been consistency in the past on radio or TV so it needs to be accessible. That will happen and will increase how many people watch it and participate in the game.”
- The FA Women’s Super League starts on September 24. Watch the action on BT Sport
- Watch the best tennis players in the world live in 21 WTA tournaments a year on BT Sport.