To look at sport today and compare it to sport from, for example, 30 years ago you would say sporting equality is better now. There have been some recent high profile comments about women’s tennis that would suggest there are still some old fashioned views lurking. Clearly progress has been made in increasing the exposure and professionalism of women’s sport. Prize money for women’s tennis is nearing that of men’s, although less so in the lower ranking events, England has a fully professional cricket team and premier league football clubs are increasing the funding and investment of their women’s teams. This is all encouraging to help boost the culture of sport in general. However, there seems to be little attention or thought given to a truer type of sporting equality. In sports not demanding physical contact there is no certain reason that a team could not include both men and women. Basketball, cricket and netball are all such examples, why could a team not consist of 3:2 of each gender in basketball or 6:5 in cricket? There would be no advantage to one side, no risk to either gender from differences in physiology. Even if tactically subtle alterations were needed, professional sport is quick to adapt and absorb change to maintain a competitive edge. This would likely mean that games were competitive and interesting from the start. If this simple change were made, the governing bodies would act fast to have genuine equality in investment to develop their players. The Olympic movement- one that is supposed to champion human progress and achievement- could easily adapt its rules to insist the various sports must include both men and women in order to compete. Do we need separate men’s and women’s 4 x 100m relays or men’s only medley swimming events? The best male athletes and female athletes could make up the team. That is genuine equality. Participation and viewing of women’s sport generally lags behind that of men’s but there is nothing innate that prohibits equality of participation. Belief in a natural inequality is unarguable, culture is what needs changing, what better way than from the top? Culturally sport, like the working world, has a distance to travel before genuine equality exists. Just waiting for it to happen may not be enough.
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