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Anna Halliday RETAIL Sports Direct launches drive for women's sport equality Start Reading

Slide Sports Direct has launched a new long-term project and campaign called Equal Play that it said is addressing inequalities in sport with the company creating welcoming spaces where women can discover new sports. It wants to help close the sports gender gap and accelerate equality in sport due to the “huge disparities” it sees between sexes within the industry.

The company, which is part of the giant Frasers Group, commissioned research with charity partner Women in Sport and found that as many as 40% of young people think society views female sport as being less important than male sport and female athletes as less talented. Some 46% of girls said they’d be encouraged to take part if they saw more high-profile women's sports.

The survey also found that 73% of girls and 67% of boys agree that women's teams have less funding or sponsorship available to support them compared to men's teams.

Some of the initiatives the company is launching include the creation of safe places to train, more representation of women in campaigns, supporting grassroots organisations across the UK and sponsorship funding for athletes.

Sports Direct chief marketing officer Beckie Stanion said that “it’s shocking to see the huge disparities between the sexes in sport, at all levels. During the pandemic, these issues have been growing, which is why our Equal Play initiative is now more important than ever. We see sport as the great equaliser, but sadly when it comes to gender, so much more needs to be done”.

It's undeniable that male sport gets more attention than female sport does and there has been controversy in the past over male sports stars being paid much more than female equivalents, with a number of excuses offered in explanation.

But while male sports have traditionally been more lucrative than female ones have, that situation is changing fast. The big brand names – as well as retailers like Sports Direct – are responding with product launches and campaigns that reflect this.

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