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Awards: Be a Game Changer

Celebrating the individuals, teams and organisations who are dedicated to improving and advancing women’s sport, this year’s #BeAGameChanger Awards showcased an impressive group of winners. We take a closer look at their inspirational stories

Published in Sports Management 2018 issue 3
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue

Launched in 2015 by the Women’s Sport Trust, the #BeAGameChanger Awards celebrate the visionaries who are driving the future of women’s sport. They tell the stories of the individuals, organisations and initiatives doing the most to progress women’s sport. These stories set the pace, show what’s possible and, most importantly, stimulate other brands, sport and the media to step up and take action. By building this momentum, the awards help to accelerate the future of women’s sport.

This year, the stories of a range of game changers were showcased at the event which took place on the 24 May at Troxy, East London. The audience comprised elite and emerging athletes, media, business people, politicians, sports leaders and grassroots influencers. It was a high energy, collaborative event that was explicitly designed to encourage action and stimulate change.

Sporting Role Model – Team

England Women’s Cricket Team

2017 was a landmark year for the England Women’s Cricket Team. They won the World Cup in front of a sell-out crowd of 24,000 at Lords, with 1.1 million watching on television in the UK – by far the largest audience for any cricket match in 2017, men or women – and in doing so inspired a whole new generation of fans.

The players take seriously their duty to help grow the game. So much so that the morning after their World Cup win they were back at Lord’s running an All-Stars coaching session for girls.

The team are well known for signing every autograph, replying to every bit of fan mail and chatting to young fans whenever possible. They have appeared in the national media many times and there is significant evidence to suggest that young girls across the country have been inspired to take up the sport because of them.

Clare Connor, director of England Women’s Cricket says: “The foundations are there already, everyone talks about a watershed and game-changing moment, and this does feel like that. We knew it was going to be a huge opportunity, and of course it’s vitally important we make sure this success inspires and connects with talented girls and boys.”

The England Women’s Cricket Team won the world cup in 2017, inspiring new fans
The England Women’s Cricket Team won the world cup in 2017, inspiring new fans

Inspiring Initiative – Local

Crawley Old Girls (COGs)

The Crawley Old Girls was set up in 2015 by Carol Bates to enable older women to learn to play football. Set up with help from the Crawley Town Community Foundation and funding from the EFL Trust, the COGs cater to the ‘missed generation’ of women who weren’t allowed to play when they were younger.

In the last year COGs’ numbers have increased significantly. It’s attracted women who are coming back into the game and want to play recreationally. From having 10 ladies on the first night, the team now runs Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced player sessions with over 100 recorded attendees.

In 2017 COGs was featured on a BBC1 programme as well as on the radio. These shows had an amazing impact, inspiring other women to start up their own groups, especially in the South East.

Since 2015, the Crawley Old Girls has enabled older women to learn to play football
Since 2015, the Crawley Old Girls has enabled older women to learn to play football

Ambassador of Women’s Sport

Lorna Boothe

Lorna Boothe is enjoying an impressive career in athletics management
Lorna Boothe is enjoying an impressive career in athletics management

Lorna Boothe is a former Olympic athlete who has risen through the ranks to become the most senior black woman in athletics management. She currently sits on the European Athletic Coaches’ Association and England Athletics Regional Councils. She is the England lead speed coach for the Commonwealth Games.

Boothe is a double Olympian and Commonwealth Gold and silver medalist in the 100m hurdles.

She was part of the team responsible for setting up the IAAF Academy and World Class Coaches Club.

As a member of English Sports Council Racial Equality Advisory Group, she worked with the Commission for Racial Equality to set up the now high-profile Sporting Equals programme and was the European Athletic Coaches’ Association’s General Secretary as well as on the Board of the Olympians Committee UK.

Sporting Role Model – Individual

Stacey Copeland

Stacey Copeland
Stacey Copeland

Stacey Copeland is one of only six professional female boxers in the UK. She made her amateur debut in 2011 and became European silver medalist and three-time national champion; she turned professional in 2017 and currently remains unbeaten.

Copeland has been very vocal in the debate surrounding ring card girls, appearing in the national media as a spokesperson, speaking out against objectifying women in sport.

She has given over 50 inspirational talks on women in sport in the last 12 months, including one for the European Parliament.

Copeland has developed the ‘Pave the Way’ project, which has included an inspiration day for girls, community sports sessions for local groups, domestic violence survivors and refugee women.

Brand / Sponsor Partnership of the Year

Investec is ‘Principal Partner of
GB and England Women’s Hockey’

Investec’s role in the continued growth of women’s hockey in this country simply cannot be understated. As sponsors of the Great Britain and England women’s international hockey team since 2011, it has helped contribute to two Olympic medals, including a historic first-ever gold.

In 2017, Investec invested in the Investec Internationals, the two biggest hockey fixtures hosted in this country since the London Olympics.

At grass roots level, Investec employed a digital strategy to maximise its sponsorship of the Women’s Hockey League, investing in a creative agency to film games and stream a highlights package live on its social media channels for the first time, reaching more than 540,000 on Facebook and 105,000 on Twitter.

At youth level, Investec sponsored the Girls Schools Finals, England Hockey’s elite competition for school girls, with 400 of the country’s best participating over two days.

Investec sponsors the Great Britain and England women’s international hockey team
Investec sponsors the Great Britain and England women’s international hockey team

Inspiring Initiative – National

England Rugby’s Inner Warrior campaign

Inner Warrior is England Rugby’s major women and girls campaign that aims to encourage new female players into rugby. Initially, it was part of a four-year strategy to grow female participation from 15,000 to 25,000 by July 2017. Thanks to Inner Warrior, this target was exceeded one year ahead of schedule.

An aspirational brand, Inner Warrior focuses on empowering women and appealing to their inner toughness. The campaign is spearheaded by an emotive film, which asks 18 to 35-year-old women to challenge themselves with a fun and social fitness alternative by signing up to nationwide Warrior Camps – taster sessions for rugby.

The campaign has significantly increased the number of females participating in rugby, smashing the target of 25,000, with 41 new women’s teams registered in the 17/18 season alone.

National Governing Body of the Year

England and Wales Cricket Board

The ECB made huge strides in 2017 in showing that cricket is a game for everyone. England’s ICC Women’s World Cup triumph was a transformational moment for the sport, attracting a capacity crowd at Lord’s and a global TV audience of 180 million. The tournament reached new and diverse audiences, with 65 per cent of ticket-buyers new to cricket, 32 per cent under 16 years old and 45 per cent women.

The ECB used the World Cup to inspire more young girls and women to play, support and watch the game. It ran 250 soft-ball cricket festivals for 9,500 female players, 60 per cent of whom hadn’t played any form of structured cricket previously.

Eight hundred kit bags were sent to clubs and teams, allowing women to play the game at times that suited them. The rise of the recreational club game continued with 543 clubs running a women’s section in 2017, a yearly increase of over 30 per cent.

The next generation was also inspired, with more than 37,000 children aged five to eight taking part in the first year of All Stars Cricket – a new entry-level programme.

Funding to the Chance to Shine programme doubled, which helped the schools’ cricket charity go from strength to strength. 415,000 young people took part in 2017 – with a massive 48 per cent of school participants being female.

Imagery of the Year

Standing in the Light

Karen Yeoman’s photo project ‘Standing in the Light’ is an ongoing investigation that examines the representation of women in sport and seeks to present an inspiring stage to encourage women to follow their dreams.

Yeoman was shocked by a recent statistic that reported that women are under-represented in photography, with only 5 per cent of the pictures used by leading photography publishers taken by women, and just 2 per cent of female photographers represented by commercial agencies.

She noticed that within the sports/fitness genre of photography her peers are predominantly male, a situation similar to the representation of women in sport. Yeoman questioned how this might affect how women are presented in sports imagery.

Yeoman began the research for ‘Standing in the Light’ with short interviews, and she now has an archive of women’s accounts of their expectations, motivation and challenges.

Yeoman’s ‘Standing in the Light’ project aims to inspire women to follow their dreams
Yeoman’s ‘Standing in the Light’ project aims to inspire women to follow their dreams

Media Initiative of the Year

The Tough Girl Podcast

Sarah Williams started the Tough Girl Podcast in August 2015 with 4 episodes and the sole aim of increasing the amount of female role models in the media. Williams has now interviewed over 150 female explorers, adventurers, athletes, and everyday women, who have overcome great challenges. The Tough Girl Podcast has been downloaded over 500,000 times and is listened to in 174 countries.

In 2017 she started ‘Seven women – seven challenges’, which follows the adventures of seven ordinary women of different ages, from different backgrounds, who are going after different goals.

On the podcast, Williams talks to the women about their fears, challenges, failures and successes, and asks for practical tips and advice. Williams is informal, friendly and helps to share the stories that matter.

She not only talks the talk, but also gets out of her comfort zone and takes on big challenges to motivate and inspire other women to do the same. In 2016, she ran the Marathon des Sables, six marathons in six days across the Sahara Desert, which is known as the world’s toughest footrace. In 2017, Williams thru-hiked solo the Appalachian trail, 2,190 miles in 100 days, while daily vlogging.

Williams is currently studying for her Masters in Women and Gender Studies at Lancaster University and continues to be a source of inspiration for women and girls.

Williams started the Tough Girl podcast to celebrate female role models
Williams started the Tough Girl podcast to celebrate female role models
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