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Pandemic hit women's sport much more than men's - UK parliamentary report

LONDON (Reuters) - The new coronavirus pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women’s elite sport and exacerbated inequality with knock-on effects for the future, a British parliamentary committee report said on Thursday.

Soccer Football - Women's Vysheyshaya Liga - FC ABFF WU-19 v FC Dinamo BGUFK - Stadium FC Minsk, Minsk, Belarus - April 30, 2020 General view of an injury during the match, despite most sport being cancelled around the world, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) report on the impact of COVID-19 called on the government to outline how it intended to support already under-funded women’s sport post-crisis.

It added that men’s elite sports should not be “further prioritised at the expense of the women’s game”.

The report noted women’s soccer and rugby seasons as well as cycling events were cancelled, while men’s sports continued, and said the postponement to 2021 of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics had also hit female athletes hard.

“The lack of visibility of women’s sport this summer risks undoing work to improve funding for women’s elite sport,” the report said.

“Cancellation of women’s events is likely to reduce the number of women being inspired to take part in sporting activities.”

The DCMS report said the health crisis had also “shone a stark light” on financial issues in soccer, whose current business model was not sustainable.

“We firmly believe that football must use its response to the COVID-19 crisis to ‘reset’,” it said. “The crisis has shone a light on the culture of unfair pay in football.

“The decision by some Premier League clubs to furlough non-playing staff was deplorable, and we welcomed its reversal.”

The committee said soccer also needed to be more representative, declaring a “fundamental inequality” that there was no Black owner, chair or chief executive of a Premier League club.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond