|Urvasi Naidoo- CEO, International Federation of Netball|
|Profile of the week|
Tuesday, 10 January 2012 11:40
Urvasi Naidoo is CEO of the International Federation of Netball, a position she has held since July 2008. Before assuming this role, Naidoo was senior counsel and company secretary of the ICC. She has a wealth of experience in sports volunteering and is a keen supporter ofgender and ethnic minority equality in sports. She is a trustee of Sporting Equals and a member of the Commission on the Future of Women's Sport.
What do you think of the iSportconnect concept?
The more you can get from your colleagues and peers, the better. If people are sharing ideas, initiatives and best practice, it's always helpful.
You're involved in the Commission for the Future of Women's Sport, what do you see as the major obstacles facing the development of women's sport?
It really comes down to certain areas like lack of media coverage. When you see the coverage of women's sport and female athletes, there's certainly much less than male athletes even though they might be training more and their achievements might be as equal too. The coverage is not equal, particularly in things like women's football with the England team doing so well, yet that's hardly ever covered. With sports like swimming, it seems there is no coverage unless it's the Olympics.
The second thing is the lack of commercial revenue put into women's sport; most of the money goes to men's sports events or men's sports teams. Women's sport is still struggling to catch up and break the perception that you can't make money from women's sport. You can, in fact, in some ways, you can make more as most of the shopping is done by girls and women. If you're missing out on that market, you're missing out on quite a lot, but unfortunately sponsors haven't yet clocked onto that.
The third thing is the lack of female leaders and role models at the very top. The more female coaches, umpires, officials, CEOs, administrators, sports journalist and people working in sponsorship and marketing, the more you can perpetuate giving women better opportunities in sport.
How can these obstacles be overcome?
The Commission on the Future of Women's Sport has had various research and educational campaigns on the issue of commercialisation of women's sport. Those reports can make a difference in the sense they're trying to reach the corporate world and give them a different perspective. They've also done some research into viewership; the number of women who watch sport is surprisingly high, not just women who by default end up watching the football but women who enjoy watching sport and will pay money to either attend sports or pay for premium TV to watch things like tennis, golf and so on. By failing to televise some of the sports, you are losing out on a market.
In relation to the media, it's a case of constantly trying to court the media in some way to come to events. We had a netball event in Liverpool, it was fantastically well-attended by a local crowd and netball supporters but media was few and far between. England won, and it's such a shame for them that there were no broadsheets, or somebody from the BBC, there. Anybody could pick it up. I think it's a case of trying to get a few friendly journalists on your side, making sure they know when your events are and that they can see how fantastic and dynamic the sport is.
Which individuals do you see as particularly good ambassadors for women's sport?
There are some important high profile ones in the UK, like Rebecca Adlington and Zara Phillips, but also some that never get any publicity like our triathlon world champion Chrissie Wellington.
What kind of impact can the London 2012 Olympics have on increasing popularity of women's sport in the UK?
I think it's fantastic, because what we've seen in the two most recent summer and winter Olympics is there's almost an equal number of women to men athletes in all of the sports. When it comes to London, I think it's going to be similar.
Things like changing the programme to allow women's boxing shows that they've been awarded the same coverage, exposure and rights in terms of competing as the men. Things like that make a big difference to how the event is viewed. I think the Olympics itself has a universal appeal to men and women. The viewership research has shown that it's almost equal viewership in terms of male and female audiences. It's not just things like the gymnastics that women watch, they like the athletics as well and everything about the Olympics. 2012 is going to propel a whole new generation of young females into thinking about sports in a serious way.