Coronavirus: Women's sport should be safeguarded, says Dame Heather Rabbatts

Dame Heather Rabbatts
Dame Heather Rabbatts was a Football Association director from 2011 to 2017

Women's sport must be safeguarded from the economic effects of coronavirus, former Football Association director Dame Heather Rabbatts says.

The pandemic could cost UK football, cricket and rugby union a total of almost £700m, officials have warned.

Women's sports need more help, Rabbatts told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"They don't have necessarily the same financial strength behind them, which is why I think it's really important they are safeguarded," she said.

"The FA is looking to protect women’s football as Fifa has reiterated its $1bn investment into women's football.

"I think the more that those major governing bodies can instil confidence into women's sport and into the market, I'm sure that will be very positive and add further security."

With sport still suspended in the UK and talks ongoing about return dates, Rabbatts also raised the possibility of women’s sport returning before men’s.

She said: “I think some of the challenges for women's sports are the same as for men.

"How do we have live events? And how do we ensure that they are safe? Whether you're talking 10,000 people watching a sport or 80,000, some of those challenges are the same.

"You can see opportunities for some of those sports to come back earlier. And I think that will absolutely help in terms of opportunities.

"But I also believe that for many brands, who will have to be rethinking their marketing strategies, that the opportunity to be engaged with women's sport will be also financially and commercially attractive.

"These are sports that are engaging with thousands of fans and millions of viewers.

"But they are still at, let's say, a more affordable price point than maybe some of the men's sports have been historically."