$10m to back fe­male play­ers

The Press - - Front Page - David Long

The Gov­ern­ment has launched a new strat­egy to en­cour­age women and girls to get in­volved with sport at all lev­els.

Through Sport NZ, the Gov­ern­ment will in­vest at least $10 mil­lion over the next three years on the strat­egy, which will go to­wards a num­ber of ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing a mar­ket­ing cam­paign to in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion, vis­i­bil­ity and value of women and girls in sport.

There will also be a con­testable fund for those with ideas on how to get more women and girls phys­i­cally ac­tive.

At the strat­egy’s launch in Auck­land yes­ter­day, Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern said girls were in­ter­ested in play­ing sport when they’re young and en­joyed par­tic­i­pat­ing with their friends, but then dropped out.

‘‘As they get older, there are is­sues around want­ing to en­gage for health rea­sons and be­ing ac­tive, but [are] of­ten be­ing self con­scious and wor­ried about whether or not they’ve got the skills re­quired and body im­age is­sues,’’ Ardern said.

‘‘These are things we should be look­ing at from a men­tal health per­spec­tive, as well as a sport and recre­ation per­spec­tive.’’

Through the strat­egy, the Gov­ern­ment wants to in­crease the in­volve­ment of women in sport at grass­roots and elite lev­els, and also en­cour­age women to have a big­ger in­flu­ence in coach­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Some progress has been made at higher lev­els of sport in par­ity be­tween men and women and there is in­creased me­dia cov­er­age of women’s sport.

Over­all though, Sport and Recre­ation Min­is­ter Grant Robert­son said there was still a long way to go be­fore there was a level play­ing field.

‘‘There is a dis­tance to go,’’ Robert­son said.

‘‘But when we look at the Foot­ball Ferns and New Zealand Foot­ball’s role in mak­ing sure there is pay eq­uity there, that was great progress.

‘‘In rugby sev­ens, we al­ready have that, for the 15s, yes we’ve fi­nally got pro­fes­sional con­tracts.

‘‘We need to keep push­ing and ca­jol­ing, but quite clearly the Gov­ern­ment doesn’t run those in­di­vid­ual sport­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions.

‘‘What’s in the strat­egy to­day, is the fact that when we are com­ing to do our fund­ing agree­ments for 2020, we will be look­ing at this strat­egy and we will be talk­ing to na­tional sport­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions about how they’re go­ing in im­ple­ment­ing this strat­egy as part of that fund­ing dis­cus­sion.’’

Ardern her­self ad­mit­ted she strug­gled to stick to one sport when younger and dab­bled in bad­minton, hockey, bas­ket­ball, net­ball and touch rugby.

The Gov­ern­ment hopes that the strat­egy will lead to women and girls stick­ing with sport longer.

‘‘There will be a group of girls out there lis­ten­ing to what we’re talk­ing about to­day and prob­a­bly al­most all of them would have had some ex­pe­ri­ence at some point that’s put them off par­tic­i­pat­ing in sport and recre­ation,’’ Ardern said.

‘‘So that tells me that we do need to worry about it down to a school level, so I hope that we have full buy-in at ev­ery sin­gle level, be­cause it’s of­ten at school that par­tic­i­pa­tion starts or stops and de­ter­mines whether it car­ries on later in life.’’

A way to ad­vance women’s sport in New Zealand is to have role mod­els. Peo­ple like Dame Va­lerie Adams, Lisa Car­ring­ton and oth­ers in­spire young­sters to take up sport.

But Ardern noted that Black Ferns jer­seys were nowhere near as read­ily avail­able to buy as All Blacks jer­seys.

‘‘We should be able to have the most ba­sic things like mer­chan­dise for our sports teams that are both fe­male and male, equally avail­able,’’ Ardern said.

‘‘Peo­ple would be sur­prised this wouldn’t be the case, par­tic­u­larly given we’re talk­ing about a world cham­pion team and one which has a huge fol­low­ing.’’

PHOTOSPORT

Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern says the Gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to in­creas­ing the num­bers of women and girls in­volved in sport.

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