OLYMPIC year is always a valuable one for women’s sport, providing a platform unlike anything else on the sporting calendar.

In the UK in particular, the Olympics has made household names of the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill, Katherine Grainger and Nicola Adams, with the Tokyo Games having been set to bring a new crop of female athletes into the limelight.

The postponement, then, of this year’s Games was especially disappointing for female athletes and fans of women’s sport, and there was a double blow with women’s sport being disproportionately hit in terms of damage done by the pandemic. 

In the early weeks and months of the lockdown, much of the talk about how to re-start professional sport was centred around men’s football and rugby, with their female counterparts receiving far less consideration. 

Vivienne MacLaren, who is a member of the Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Advisory Board and chair of Scottish Women’s Football, has spent much of her life pushing for improved opportunities for women and girls in sport and she agrees that 2020 has presented a number of challenges.

“Women’s sport has undoubtedly been ignored for a large part of the pandemic, and I was certainly reminded even more of the areas that need to improve – media coverage being at the forefront,” she says. 

“I am well aware that income generation and those sports impacted significantly were focused on, but we cannot ignore the huge impact that having little or no access to facilities, whether indoors or outdoors, has had on girls and women participating in sport and physical activity.”

However, there remains optimism that female sport can recover from this tumultuous year. 

Prior to the pandemic, women’s sport was on a high both in Scotland and globally. In this country, Laura Muir and Katie Archibald are as high profile, if not even more so, than any of their male counterparts, while worldwide, the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and the coverage US captain Megan Rapinoe in particular attracted, shone a spotlight on the women’s game like never before.

MacLaren agrees that considerable progress was made last year, but remains concerned that without support, much of that may be lost.

“We have seen huge momentum and interest for women’s sport building since summer 2019 and it will be important moving forward to rebuild safely and effectively. We can do that through focused and sustained investment, strong leadership and collaboration across all sectors to ensure that we see participation and growth again.”

 Next year’s postponed Olympic Games will provide a delayed opportunity for female athletes to boost their profile and generate much-needed media coverage, while with many governing bodies tasked with increasing participation numbers, targeting women is an obvious way to boost numbers. 

Similarly, with women’s sport not commanding anything like the amounts of money men’s sport does in terms of sponsorship, it often provides a greater return, pound for pound, for companies many of which are feeling the pinch.

On the face of it, the recovery of women’s sport would seem a sizeable mountain to climb, but given its momentum in pre-Covid times, there is hope the coming years will provide further grounds for optimism and give us all more to celebrate.



FINDING things to be depressed about in 2020 has not been hard. And while there have been far more significant things to be down about, the lack of competitive sport, particularly over the spring and summer months, left a gaping hole in the lives of athletes and fans alike.

However, for a year which saw the sporting calendar decimated, there have been a number of highlights.

From a Scottish perspective, athletics in particular has brought a number of bright spots. Jake Wightman came out of lockdown in phenomenal shape, breaking the Scottish 1500m record and running the third fastest time in the world this year in August, while training partners Laura Muir and Jemma Reekie have established themselves as Olympic medal contenders in  Tokyo next summer.

In the cycling world, Neah Evans and Archibald ensured GB’s remarkable team pursuit success continued, winning European gold, and in the pool, Duncan Scott, confirmed his status as one of the best swimmers on the planet, recording the fastest 200m freestyle of the year in last month’s International Swimming League final in Budapest.

Josh Taylor may have only taken to the ring once, but he comfortably held on to his status as unified light-welterweight champion in September, while he entered Ring magazine’s much-respected pound-for-pound top-10 list for the first time.

On the global stage, some of my highlights were Naomi Osaka storming her way to victory at the US Open while shining a light on the Black Lives Matter movement with her facemasks emblazoned with the names of those killed in America by the police, and watching Armand Duplantis break his own world pole vault record in Glasgow in February.