Women’s sport is surging in popularity on campus

2019 is a breakthrough year

Increased coverage of women’s sport has fuelled a surge in participation among young women, according to a Tab survey.

2019 has been a breakthrough year for female sport, with millions watching events such as the football and netball World Cups.

According to our survey of undergraduates, 58 per cent of women have been inspired to play more sport because they watched major female sports events this year. And 56 per cent said they have noticed more women around them taking part in sport.

In the past, with the way media has traditionally reported on UK sport, you’d be forgiven for assuming that all British athletes were men. In 2017, July to August had the most female-focused sports coverage yet even then it only added up to 10 per cent of all UK sports coverage!

However, with national coverage of events such as FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 and the Netball World Cup, women in sport seem to finally be getting the airtime they deserve. The question is, has this positive change made its way to campus?

To find out if there had been a positive impact, The Tab polled female undergraduates about their sporting habits, and how the sports they watched in 2019 have changed the way they view exercise – here are the results:

Did you play sports regularly before 2019?

It’s interesting to see how even with the low amount of visibility on professional women athletes prior to 2019, 65 per cent of female students were still actively playing sport. So now we have the base percentages, it’s time to see contextualise these numbers with the rest of our findings.

Did you watch any of the below events in 2019? Select as many as applicable


With Nike’s successful Dream With Us campaign, Germany’s viral world cup advert, and the BBC’s World Cup Rap it’s no surprise that, at 37 per cent, FIFA Women’s World cup was the most-watched event. England’s defeat by the United States in the semi-finals attracted 11.7m viewers, the highest peak UK television audience of 2019 and a new record for women’s football in the UK.

Do you play, or are you interested in playing, any of the following sports? Choose as many as applicable 

The 2019 Netball World Cup saw England beat South Africa to win Bronze and it could be argued that media coverage of this event plus the growing national support for the team, is one of the key reasons why netball has come top in our list of univeristy sports.

How does watching women’s international sport make you feel about doing sport yourself?

Now we’ve clarified which sporting events female students watched, it’s time to see how they affected their feelings towards sport. Ultimately the response was very positive, with over 58 per cent of the survey’s respondents saying that having watched these events, they now felt more motivated to do sport.

Have you noticed an increase or decrease in women around you taking part in sport? 

The above result, especially when coupled with the fact 56 per cent of the students also noticed an increase in the number of women doing sport this year, shows just how positive 2019’s female-focused sporting calendar has been when it comes to the perception of women in sport by female students on campus.


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