‘Best ever’ year for Scottish women in sport helps boost surge in participation

Scottish players celebrate a World Cup goal against Argentina. Picture: Lionel Bonaventure/Getty
Scottish players celebrate a World Cup goal against Argentina. Picture: Lionel Bonaventure/Getty
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The number of women across Scotland participating in basketball, football, hockey, aquatics, rugby and tennis clubs has risen by over 35 per cent over the past five years.

Football and hockey have seen numbers double since 2014, while 67 per cent more are playing basketball, figures from Scottish Parliament researchers have revealed.

Tennis remains the most popular sport among women with over 25,000 regular participants.

MSP Jenny Gilruth, who obtained the figures, said: “I am delighted to see more women and girls getting involved in sport here in Scotland – the SNP’s additional support for sportscotland in this year’s budget will only help to encourage even more women to join a sports team.

“While funding for sport and facilities is vital in helping to get more women involved in sport, the SNP’s commitment to double the free provision of childcare across Scotland is just as important in helping to break down the barriers that prevent more women taking part in sport.

“The image of women’s football in particular, has been strengthened by the success of the Scotland national team reaching the World Cup Finals this year.

“While there is still more to do for female sport – I am delighted to see more and more women getting the opportunity to be part of our rich sporting culture in Scotland.”

More than 14,000 women now play football after numbers doubled over the past three years. Swimming also saw a 14 per cent rise with more than 14,000 regular participants.

A spokesperson for sportscotland said: “Sport has the power to change lives and that is why we are committed to creating more opportunities, particularly for women and girls, to participate in communities across the country.

“We will continue to work with our partners across the sector to ensure that everyone benefits from sport and physical activity as part of the world-class sporting system.”

The last year has been hailed as one of the best ever for Scottish women in sport. The summer saw history made with Scotland’s women’s football team playing in a World Cup for the first time.

A qualifying campaign that saw record home attendances, and the rollercoaster manner of their exit from the finals – blowing a three-goal lead over Argentina to draw after defeats to England and Japan – none the less cemented the team in the hearts of Scots sports fans.

In the club scene, Glasgow City’s progression to the quarter-finals of the women’s Champions League was another milestone. The domestic game is also set to be overhauled next year with Celtic and Rangers introducing professional and semi-professional set-ups.

Hannah Rankin also became Scotland’s first-ever female boxing champion last year, as the 29-year-old defeated American Sarah Curran in June for the vacant IBO super-welterweight title.

Laura Muir cemented her place as one of Scotland’s greatest current athletes. The 26-year-old stormed to gold in both the 1,500m and the 3,000m at the European Indoor Athletics Championship in Glasgow.

But the increase comes despite concerns that women’s sport is still largely under-reported by the mainstream media.

Research carried out by Edinburgh University’s Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy organisation earlier this year, for the government’s Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Advisory Board, found that as well as a lack of coverage, a “cause for concern” was how female athletes were presented.