I’m as quick, or as culpable, as anyone for lauding the leaps forward women’s sport is making.

And it is.

Coverage, attendances, financial rewards and, perhaps most importantly, respect levels, are all increasing exponentially.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that sport, or large sections of it anyway, are anything more than an elite boys’ club.

There are a few sports which are more guilty of such a status than others.

And Formula One is perhaps more a boys club than any other sport.

It’s an assertion that was confirmed this week, or at least backed-up, by one of the greatest motorsport drivers ever to have lived; Lewis Hamilton.

“It is still a male-dominated sport,” said Hamilton, before going on to berate the discrimination that women have been on the receiving end of in F1. 

The Herald: Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton was speaking in the aftermath of the revelation that F1 Academy director Susie Wolff has launched criminal proceedings against the sport’s governing body, the FIA. A few months ago, Wolff was subject to an investigation by the FIA into a potential conflict of interest of which she was accused due to her position as the head of the F1 Academy and her husband’s involvement as an F1 team principal.

The issue was looked into and dismissed by the FIA compliance department in December but Wolff is suing for the reputational damage caused by the investigation being made public.

What’s been most interesting, though, is Hamilton’s reaction to Wolff’s legal action.

The seven-time world champion and the Scot go back a long way – they’ve been friends for years having grown up in the sport together - so his support for Wolff is perhaps not unexpected but his calling-out of what he sees as blatant sexism and discrimination against women, certainly is.

Hamilton also alluded to the wholly unedifying case that’s been rumbling on inside F1 for a month now; the sexting scandal.The Herald: Christian Horner has been embroiled in a sexting scandalChristian Horner has been embroiled in a sexting scandal

The participants of a sexting scandal rarely emerge with their reputations enhanced, but Horner has managed to ensure he’s come out of this one particularly badly.

The Red Bull boss, who’s married to Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, was accused of controlling behaviour towards a female employee, something he was cleared of just days before a cache of text messages purported to be between the pair was released.

The fortnight or so since this news broke has been thoroughly depressing; the woman in question was suspended, albeit on full pay, for exactly what most are unsure but one of the things seems to be for not being male.

I am, of course, reading between the lines here with this assertion but being female seems to have done the woman in question few favours and is what, at least in part, has fuelled Hamilton’s excoriating comments.

“'We’re living in a time where the message is if you file a complaint, you will be fired and that is a terrible narrative to be projecting to the world, especially when we’re talking about inclusivity in the sport,” said Hamilton this week.

It should come as a surprise to precisely no one that F1 can be less than welcoming to women. 

It’s similar in so many other workplaces that are heavily male-dominated, but sport seems particularly susceptible. Football, despite the rise of the women’s game, remains heavily male-dominated at the top and presents us, with an alarming regularity, examples of just how little is thought of women.

The latest example centres around former Barcelona footballer, Dani Alves, who was found guilty of raping a woman earlier this year yet his former club has refused to remove his page from the “Legends” section of their website. 

Alves may have been a good footballer but it’s hardly a stretch to suggest that being a rapist should tarnish his credentials to be branded “legendary”.

What’s so disheartening, and angering, about these two examples is they’re so unsurprising.

Few women, particularly women who have either been involved in or observed male-dominated sports will have been blindsided by the fact that there remains deeply sexist factions within said sports.

So, for all the progress that women’s sport is clearly making, don’t be fooled that discrimination is anywhere near being banished for good.



There’s sport, there’s extreme sport and then there’s the Barkley Marathon.

It’s almost impossible to describe the Barkley Marathon, the 2024 edition of which finished just a couple of days ago.

It is, most agree, the toughest test of physical endurance on the planet.

The annual race takes place in Tennessee and since its inception 1986, has taken on an almost mythical quality.

It is, though, suitable for only the most hard-core of athletes with the race 100 miles long, run in loops, with a 60-hour cut-off.

Quite how testing the event can be is perhaps best illustrated by the statistic that, prior to this year’s race, only 15 people had ever finished the Barkley.

Not 15 people a year, but 15 in total since 1986.

It’s less of a running race and more of an expedition – there’s 13,000 feet of climbing per loop and finishing even two loops proves almost impossible for the majority – in this year’s edition, more than 50 percent of the field dropped out before the 17-hour mark.

There was Scottish representation in the shape of the incredible Jasmin Paris who, this year, went further than any female ever has in the Barkley.

The Herald: Jasmin ParisJasmin Paris

The mentality of people who want to test themselves in such an extreme challenge fascinates me – even as someone who spent over a decade competing in elite sport, I can’t fathom what would possess anyone to want to push themselves to such limits.

And it’s this that makes the Barkley Marathon so fascinating; in a world of 7 billion people, you can count on one hand those who are undefeated by it each year.