The best female players in the world tee up at Muirfield in East Lothian this week for the AIG Women’s Open, the final Major championship of the year.
Surely this event deserves topmost industry support and media coverage to back up The R&A’s commitment to advance change in the women’s game and drive women and girls’ participation?
In 2020, the R&A dropped the ‘British’ from the title to put it in line with the male Major, but in many respects, this is where the comparison ends, particularly as far as raising awareness of the AIG Women’s Open is concerned.
At the time of writing (less than a week before the start of the championship) a Google search showed only a handful of preview articles. On social media, there was not much to write home about either. In my opinion, collectively the golf industry and the wider media can and should do better
It is frustrating because the AIG Women’s Open provides the UK with a prime opportunity to expose and showcase women’s golf to a wider audience to help generate greater interest in the sport. However, unless you are a Sky Sports subscriber and happen to see the championship advertised as part of the channel’s golf coverage (BBC will broadcast highlights of each day’s play), widespread promotion of this prestigious event is limited.
As a nation, we are reeling from the excitement of the Lionesses UEFA Women’s Euro history-making win and the seismic impact their success will have on the future of women’s football. But for the team to get to this point – slowly closing the gap on gender parity and players gaining the respect they deserve, it hasn’t happened overnight.
After England’s stunning semi-final victory against Sweden, former professional footballer and presenter Alex Scott said, “This is a culmination of years of investment by players, coaches and the entire system.”
The challenges that women’s football has faced are not too dissimilar to women’s golf – breaking down barriers in a traditionally male-dominated sport to pave the way forward for the next generation. Of course, investment is key and AIG’s title sponsorship along with other partners is invaluable to the Women’s Open, but it’s important to coin a phrase, ‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it’ – the power of having role models to inspire women and girls is crucial.
Whether England had won or lost the final, women’s football had already scored, (excuse the pun!) through global and local sponsorship from brands inside and outside the sporting arena including household names like Nike, Heineken, Lego, Pandora, and LinkedIn, a series of campaigns and in-store promotions brought women’s football to people’s attention long before the first match kicked off.
Women’s sport is in the best place it has ever been. Football has just raised the bar even higher, and while women’s golf has some catching up to do, considerable progress has been made over the last decade from grassroots through to professional level, and this is no more symbolic than Muirfield hosting this year’s AIG Women’s Open .
In 2016 The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, the club which plays at Muirfield, voted against allowing female members and was subsequently stripped of hosting the Open. In 2017, following a backlash, and no doubt due to the disappointment of being kicked off the Open venue rota, the club made a U-turn with a majority (80%) voting to scrap its men-only rule.
It will therefore be a milestone moment for the club and women’s golf when players descend on the prestigious links.
Let’s hope that this is just one of many headline-grabbing stories from the championship along with those that highlight the super talented golfers competing for the coveted trophy.