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This sporting life needs a more level playing field

June 2014

I grew up on a diet of watching Pot Black at 9pm on a Friday night. I’m happy to admit that I was more interested in aspiring to play the theme tune – the wonderful Black and White Rag – than pick up a cue and have a go. I can’t even tell you the sequence of colours nor how many points each colour is worth. No, despite watching it regularly for the best part of my teenage years, it never instilled a desire to play. And yet my father was once a regional Welsh junior champion so it must be in my genes. I was a huge fan too, once visiting the Preston’s Guild Hall to watch the late, great Hurricane Higgins play . I even had his autograph secreted in my pencil case when I did my O-levels to bring a little Irish luck.

So I was dismayed to hear Steve Davis’s recent comments that a woman couldn’t ever compete at World Championship level. Apparently women don’t have the “single-minded, obsessional type of brain” that’s required. And oh dear the BBC tracked down some top female players of the sport who agreed with him. “I think women find it difficult just to concentrate on snooker,” said Reanne Evans, who has a seven-year-old daughter. “I’ve got my little girl and you’re always thinking about them.” Hmmn. I think she’s referring to the lack of financial support for the female game rather than brain power. Snooker is not a physical game, it’s a game of skill so when it comes to gender, it really doesn’t count. Even the professional game agrees. The World Snooker Championship is open to both male and female players. Who knew?

We are entering a rather sporting month. What with Wimbledon, the US Open and of course the highly anticipated World Cup kicks off in just a matter of days. Again, while not a player, I’ll be watching as avidly as the next man. So it rather sticks in my craw that Richard Scudamore, head of the Premier League, is still in his role after comments made ‘in the private domain’, exposed his derogatory attitude to women. The fact that his comments weren’t the end of his career boils down to the fact that the Premier League has profited rather well under his tenure...

The cloak of ‘the private domain’ is infuriating. We all know that such comments, while unguarded – look at the furore over Prince Charles’ recent clanger – are a reflection of the attitudes we hold and our values. By letting Scudamore get away with it, football is guilty of condoning those kinds of views and that’s not right.

When it comes to sport, we need a level playing field. The move towards mixed gender events may help. In the recent Sochi Olympics, men and women competed side by side in figure skating, luge and biathlon and in equestrian events it was ever thus. Indeed, when a sport is a down to skill and technique rather than body mass, gender really shouldn’t be an issue.

I take heart from news from which told me recently about how gender equity is made a real life experience for boys and girls participating in the One Nation Netball Cup in New Delhi, where students learn to play and win together in mixed teams. Learning to respect each other is at its core. Mr Scudamore you should take a look.


UK & NI Ireland | Equality


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