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The Gendered Effects of COVID-19 on Elite Women's Sport

The Professionalisation of Women’s Sport

ISBN: 978-1-80043-197-3, eISBN: 978-1-80043-196-6

Publication date: 20 September 2021


The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in early 2020 prompted widespread global lockdowns as the world looked to contain and reduce the impact of the virus, including a pause on most sporting competitions (Parnell et al., 2020). COVID-19 has greatly affected the world, exposing stark inequalities, especially across gendered lines, in areas of society such as the labour market, domestic responsibility and economic hardship (Alon et al., 2020). Sport is a crucial, interwoven aspect of society and like wider societal trends, elite women's sport has been adversely affected by the pandemic, facing an existential threat (Bowes et al., 2020; Clarkson et al., 2020; Rowe, 2020). The aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of how the pandemic is negatively impacting a wide variety of elite women's sports. Specifically, we cover sports where women have traditionally existed on the margins of the sport and could be considered as male-dominated labour industries. Centring primarily on the United Kingdom, we present a brief chronology of the impact of the crisis on elite women's sport, across football, rugby, cricket and golf – in many ways different from the men's versions – spanning the eight months since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 until the time of writing in November 2020. Throughout, the chapter utilises qualitative data from elite sportswomen encouraged to share their experiences during the pandemic (see Bowes et al., 2020). Subsequently, this chapter concludes with a summary of the challenges for women operating in (semi-)professional sports environments.



Clarkson, B.G., Bowes, A., Lomax, L. and Piasecki, J. (2021), "The Gendered Effects of COVID-19 on Elite Women's Sport", Bowes, A. and Culvin, A. (Ed.) The Professionalisation of Women’s Sport (Emerald Studies in Sport and Gender), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 229-244.



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