There isn’t a single area of our lives that has not been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. And while businesses are slowly re-opening, we are just now feeling the true and lasting impact of these past several months. It has become evident that the pandemic affected some people more than others, depending on socioeconomic status, race, and gender. As the world struggles to find a new normal and professional sports teams begin to reopen training venues, what will the impact be on women’s sports in the post-Covid-19 world?
Women’s sports before COVID-19
Women’s sports, for example, was seeing a huge momentum in the pre-Covid-19 world. For example, the Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia, organized by the International Cricket Council, brought a record-breaking 86,174 fans.
More and more attention was focusing on gender inequality and discrimination. The different treatment that female athletes receive compared to males, such as a different pay rate, was in the news and starting to receive momentum, but now all these issues seem to have been forgotten.
Naturally, all sports players and athletes have been affected by the pandemic as sports were also forced to a halt by the coronavirus. Even the Olympic Games were pushed back till next year.
However, many believe that women’s sports was affected more than men’s. Why? The two are coming from very different backgrounds, for one. While growing attention has been given to female athletes and their subsequent problems, that was only being discussed in recent years.
Two or three years of talking about equity in the sports world cannot erase decades of inequality and patriarchal views. If we were to see women’s sports as a building, we’d have to say that the base is still fresh and barely laid down. It is still fragile and apt to blow over, as far as equality and rights go.
Men’s sports, on the other hand, has always held a privileged place, and their building is well-rooted and can withstand a storm. And that’s basically what the Covid-19 pandemic was – a storm.
Women’s sports in the post-COVID-19 world vs. men’s
Today, men’s sports have decades of better pay, better contracts and overall better treatment to fall back on. Women’s sports, on the other hand, have decades of unfair pay, sexist treatment, and shoddy contracts to fall back on.
This can clearly be seen in Colombia, where Independiente Santa Fe, which is the country’s major football team, suspended all female contracts. Meanwhile, men’s contracts continued, only taking a pay cut.
And while men’s sports is seen as a necessary expenditure by most national budgets, women’s sports is merely seen as a commodity instead. According to this viewpoint, female athletics is easily expendable in times of trouble, such as coronavirus times.
Only time will tell whether women’s sports will be more affected than that of men. One thing, so far, is crystal clear, though. No one can escape the immense impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, no matter how well-payed or respected they are in their chosen field.
Indeed, both male and female athletes are suffering at present, with many postponements and cancellations. The tennis season is cancelled until at least August, for example.
Will women seek other professions than professional sports now that they see that the move for gender equality has been put on the backburner? Women’s sports simply won’t have the resources that men’s athletics have to reorganize in post-COVID-19. Unfortunately, organizations could be tempted to cancel female leagues that weren’t drawing in as much revenue as male leagues, or that were losing money before the coronavirus outbreak.
With the potential for confidence to be lost in women’s sports, women players will worry about the certainty of their future in pro sports. If they don’t know what will happen then they could seek careers in other areas, and that would be devastating for women’s sports in post-COVID-19.
More on the sponsorship topic
Furthermore, what if sponsors reduce their spend or, worse yet, drop out? The reality is that female games don’t typically bring in the same amount of revenue as that of men’s, including TV and commercial agreements. Without a bright future for sponsorship, what will happen? Will negotiations begun before COVID-19 with female teams and individual players continue in the near future?
The uncertainty is heavy. Media companies could focus solely on the sports that bring a big audience, rather than ensuring they encourage female sport as much as male ones. It could come down only to the numbers, especially if marketing budgets are smaller than they were before.
On the other hand, women’s sponsorships have typically been smaller than that of men’s, so perhaps companies will continue to make that investment. Of course, that requires them thinking about gender equality in addition to revenue/finances, and that’s a way of thinking that all companies might have yet.
Final words on gender equality in sports
Perhaps what will happen moving forward is that there will be a temporary hold on pushing female athletes forward with the same momentum as pre-COVID-19. Then, when the world finds a bit more stability, the movement will progress forward again.
That is an optimistic way of looking at it. With female sports often costing less than male ones, hopefully sponsors will start to look at what is cost-effective, what they can do to help recovery-wise, and how they can combat gender inequalities.