24th March 2019

Sport - A ‘good news’ story - the Scottish Women’s game

56 Degree Identity_sport.png

At 56 Degree Insight we bring a passion and expertise developed over many years working with clients across a range of sectors. As we approach our launch in June we will be sharing some details on our offer, our points of view and our recent experiences working in each of these areas. Let’s look at sport, and Scottish football in particular – an area of research where Jim Eccleston has a great deal of experience. Here he provides his take on the potential surrounding the women’s game in Scotland…

I’m a huge fan of Scottish football – when I was at the ‘pre-family’stage of life, I enjoyed following the Scotland national team at home and abroad. My enthusiasm has been passed on to my 12- year old daughter who insists we travel around Scotland following St Johnstone FC (minimal resistance from me!) – illustrating one of the real benefits of the game – forming bonds between parents and children – just as my Dad did with me all these years ago!

I consider myself very privileged to have been able to work with a number of clubs and associations over the years to undertake research and consultancy on a subject I feel so passionate about. Most recently, some research for the Scottish FA on Grassroots football illustrated the key benefits the sport brings to our children– as well as having fun, they cited the health benefits as well as the importance of team over self. The same survey also suggested that a third of our young players are girls – and this is an area of the Scottish game where we have so many good news stories just now.

Other work I have completed for the Scottish FA takes this further.Women’s football is now the 3rd most popular women’s sport to follow in Scotland, and its popularity is increasing. A lack of media coverage is still the most significant barrier among women although the recent successes of the women’s national team are resulting in greater coverage across television, radio and the newspapers. This is helped further by the increasing number of positive female footballer role models appearing as pundits and broadcasters for the male and female games across TV and radio.

While the improved media coverage of the women’s domestic game has undoubtedly contributed to stronger interest in following women’s football, it is major events such as Scotland’s participation in the Women’s EURO 2017 that creates the platforms for new female stars and capturing the interest of a new female football generation. The upcoming 2019 Women’s World Cup in France provides a further opportunity to take interest in Scottish Women’s football to the next level.

And these successes are also encouraging more girls and women to play football with over 1 in 5 Scottish females having played at some point – much higher than the European average. Barriers to women’s participation in football are now subtler than they were decades ago. 45+ year old women cited the lack of opportunities to play when they were at school. But as we come to the end of this second decade of the 21st Century, the opportunities to play are now much greater. Hence barriers now tend to be attitudinal rather than practical. By highlighting the benefits of participation –health benefits as well as the social benefits of a team sport – and celebrating the successes of the women’s national team, this can only lead to a continued growth in participation.

So, with interest in following women’s football and female participation in the game at all-time highs – and still increasing –let us hope that a strong performance by Shelley Kerr and her team in France this summer takes female interest and participation to an even higher level.

Please get in touch to find out more about the other football and sports research experience we have, and how we can help you further