Coronavirus: How women’s sport is being affected by coronavirus – BBC Sport

Major cycling, football and rugby events have been cancelled or postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic

“I do think about the young women that have worked all their life to get to this stage. All they ever wanted was an opportunity to prove themselves.”

The coronavirus pandemic has affected sport across the world, and women’s sport is arguably one of the most at risk.

Fifpro, world football’s players’ union, recently warned that the women’s game could be hit much harder by the virus than the men’s – but Fifa will continue their $1bn [£805m] investment into the women’s game’.

Athletes and administrators from a range of different sports spoke to BBC World Service for a special women’s sport programme about the impact of Covid-19.

Football: ‘We just assume women are doing the same as men’

Danish captain Pernille Harder is in Germany, where she plays as a striker for VfL Wolfsburg. The Women’s European Championships have been moved back a year to 2022.

“In Germany, we are on week three of group training. It is mostly technical – touching the ball, seeing the girls, having a little bit of socialising.

“All the men’s teams are already training in small groups but, on the women’s side, I think it is only three or four teams who have started to practice in small groups.

“If we start playing at the same time as the men, some teams at the bottom will not have been out on the pitch as long as us, and that’s not so good for them.

“It is mostly talking about the men’s leagues in the media, and we just assume that the women are doing the same as the men.

“It is important that the sponsors do not cut women’s football first.”

Rugby Union: ‘Women’s World Cup a reminder of hope’

Charmaine McMenamin is a loose forward for the Black Ferns, who are the reigning world champions. New Zealand has been one of the most successful countries in containing the virus.

“A lot of the news we get here is about the US and Europe and how it’s been hit, and I’m very thankful we have an awesome leader who acted quickly to minimise the damage.

“In terms of internationally, playing a game is still up in the air. I would be lying if I said the World Cup [which takes place in New Zealand in 2021] wasn’t overshadowed by this.

“I know world rugby will really push for it because it will be a reminder of hope and that we did get through a tough time as a rugby community.”

Catherine Spencer is a retired rugby union player. She captained England and won six Women’s Six Nations titles.

“The decision was made quite early on to end the women’s season, and at the moment, there are still talks about finishing the men’s league.

“That’s the stark reality of the difference in men’s sport and women’s sport. Men’s rugby is based around TV coverage and everything that’s linked to that, and the women’s Premiership doesn’t have the same broadcast deals.

“There’s some teams like Waterloo and Richmond – the next announcement they heard was they had effectively been relegated from the Premiership.

“So for two teams in our Premiership, all the players and coaches involved, their season, and potentially their whole career in the Premiership, has come to an abrupt end.”

Golf: ‘All they ever wanted was an opportunity to prove themselves’

Mike Whan is the LGPA commissioner. The Tour is on hold until the majority of international players can compete.

“The financial impact is staggering but my mind is always on our rookies.

“When it started to escalate, I called all the rookies. I thought about these kids who have spent their whole lives trying to make it to this level.

“They finally did, and probably got sponsors that are tied to how often they play and how well, and here they sit.

“I do think about the young women that had worked all their life to get to this stage. All they ever wanted was an opportunity to prove themselves – and it’s my job to give them that stage.”

Cycling: ‘I’m training without a goal’

Annemiek van Vleuten is the world road champion. The Dutchwoman has taken a pay cut to help her team, Mitchelton-Scott, with their finances.

“I can train with one person maximum. I try to focus on what I can control. Stay fit, stay healthy, stay happy and help where I can.

“I really miss working towards a goal with my team. I miss the competition.

“I was surprised because I also love to train but now I see that I really need the goals. It made me realise a lot of stuff you take for granted is not granted at the moment.

“I think this year it will be so hard to race in the peloton all over the world because countries are in different situations, and it makes it complicated.”

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