Women’s sports: Schools club basketball and hockey unfairly overlooked

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Silvia Vasconcelos made history for Portugal when she became the first woman to win the Student Team World Cup There has been much recent publicity about the rights…

Women's sports: Schools club basketball and hockey unfairly overlooked

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Silvia Vasconcelos made history for Portugal when she became the first woman to win the Student Team World Cup

There has been much recent publicity about the rights of women in sport.

There is a sense, as 2018 draws to a close, that things are starting to move in the right direction, and girls are finally receiving the same opportunities as boys.

However, there is still an unequal game being played that affects both genders – the one that ensures girls and women get the short end of the stick from the start.

Historically, colleges have traditionally run British men’s basketball and now women’s hockey.

These institutions are also not being asked to play a role in improving gender equality in sport, and unless they do so, the same problem will continue.

Varsity Blue Trails started off with a poll of 256 students at universities across the UK, which found 28% play basketball or hockey and 20% do both sports. Of these almost half (46%) said they joined collegiate clubs because it was easy to play basketball and hockey.

“This inequality means that thousands of girls and women still go to university without playing either sport,” said Ulrike Kaesers, the Sportsperson of the Year in the UK last year.

The Sports Personality of the Year final will be broadcast on BBC Two and the BBC Sport website on Sunday, 10 December, from 20:15 GMT

‘Still not acknowledged as equal’

So, how does this affect British universities?

The biggest barrier is that both sports do not become the same as clubs and clubs are more expensive.

“Basketball has overtaken hockey but it is still not being acknowledged that it is such an equal playing field,” explained Kevin McHargue, the secretary of the British Basketball Community.

“And it’s not. Colleges have no further commitments to maintaining equality than a normal national park which relies on a lottery grant for funding.

“The UK government does not think it is important to apply to them for money to support gender equality.”

‘Wait to be invited’

The problem is getting worse.

In 2011 the tuition fees legislation came into effect, requiring all students to pay a college entrance fee of £3,225.

The main argument against this legislation was that it would save the system money by reducing the number of students going to university, and it would reduce the need for higher education, in favour of vocational education.

The Government replied by making the college entrance fees voluntary, and many colleges do not even require students to pay these fees, but the rules are clear that they must not be made compulsory.

“The problem is that unless you want to get into a college and be forced to pay, the students will choose to get a bursary,” said Kevin McHargue.

“Sometimes they choose a bursary at a higher cost.

“It is disappointing that institutions are waiting to be invited by the UK sports minister, Tracey Crouch, to become an affiliated institution.”

Law about women in sport is discriminatory

The law, which was passed in 2001 and came into force on 18 April 2004, stated that any sports club established on a college estate in England had to be non-sex-segregated.

This meant clubs had to let in men and women. It has a bearing on sports clubs in this country, especially at colleges that compete in major sports such as basketball and hockey.

Even though the legislation doesn’t make it compulsory, clubs – and sports teams – are not legally bound to be non-sex segregated.

But at the end of 2017, a study by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation found this is still a reality for many colleges that play sports teams.

“The law is not legally binding but it makes a statement that’s racist and discriminatory,” said Ulrike Kaesers.

“When it comes to recruiting or selecting players or coaches, in most cases women and girls aren’t able to do so because there is an inequality of choice.”

The next Varsity Blue Trails Tour in 2020 will focus on the University of Leicester’s varsity hoops side, which won the past two Varsity Cups

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