World Cup can lift women’s game, says Bald­ing

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Fiona To­mas

Clare Bald­ing has vowed to use her role as the pres­i­dent of the Rugby Foot­ball League to “do some­thing spe­cial” for women’s rugby league, which she be­lieves can thrive af­ter next year’s World Cup in Eng­land.

The broad­caster took over the pres­i­dency from for­mer Arse­nal foot­baller Tony Adams this week and will hold the honorary role for a two-year term.

A long-stand­ing ad­vo­cate of women’s sport, Bald­ing has set her sights on build­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties in the elite fe­male game, which re­ceived a ma­jor boost when Bet­fred ex­tended its spon­sor­ship of the men’s Su­per League to the women’s com­pe­ti­tion last year.

“There are chances for the women’s game to maybe get spon­sors that the men’s game wouldn’t be able to,” Bald­ing told a vir­tual press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day.

“In­stead of go­ing down those tra­di­tional routes, I would hope there is a chance to go af­ter – I don’t want to be ob­vi­ous and say, ‘Let’s go for a make-up com­pany’ – but, there are chances for women’s rugby league to tar­get com­pa­nies that do want to sell a cer­tain mes­sage.

“It’s how the money is used, how it is spent and how it can grow which is im­por­tant. Those are busi­ness de­ci­sions as well as sport­ing ones. It’s go­ing to be a chal­lenge.”

The 49-year-old has been an ar­dent fol­lower of rugby league, hav­ing been given her first chance to present the code in the early 2000s and go­ing on to be­come the face of the BBC’s cov­er­age.

“I’d like to fo­cus on the growth of the women’s game be­cause I think there’s a great chance to get girls in schools think­ing about rugby league,” Bald­ing said. “If they’re ath­letic, if they’re sporty, if they want to be part of a team, then I think [it] is a ter­rific op­tion.”

She also cited the si­mul­ta­ne­ous stag­ing of the men’s, women’s and wheel­chair events at next year’s rugby league World Cup – held across Eng­land in Novem­ber – as a “huge ap­peal” when she was ap­proached by Ralph Rim­mer, RFL chief ex­ec­u­tive, for the role. “I hope next year will make a big dif­fer­ence in the same way it did with women’s foot­ball,” she said. “The Eng­land team are talk­ing about win­ning it.”

New fron­tiers: Clare Bald­ing says there is a ‘great chance to get girls in schools think­ing about rugby league’

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