Sports and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson applauds the England cricket team and explains why he believes it is crucial to get more women to play sport.
Winning the Ashes was definitely the highlight of my week. The victory against Australia was a magnificent achievement, even more so for the way it was won – with a convincing 3-1 trouncing.
This series has certainly made the country feel proud. Captain Andrew Strauss, coach Andy Flower and all the backroom staff should be applauded for their tremendous job in preparing the team to bring about the first success in Australia for 24 years. Individually, Alastair Cook’s performance clearly stood out with his incredible score of 766 across all five matches and he was a well deserved Man of the Series, but this really has been a team effort with everyone playing their part when called upon.
Much credit must also go to the fantastic support the England fans have given to the team in Australia. As seen on TV, the level of support amazed me, it often looked like England was playing at home and I’m sure it felt that way to the players. This is English sport at its best and I’m sure the ‘Barmy Army’ will be celebrating in style over the next few days in Sydney.
The challenge now for the England team is to build on this and become the top ranked team in test cricket, overtaking South Africa and India. I’m confident that with the same level of dedication and commitment invested in the Ashes it can be achieved.
The Ashes victory will also have a massive inspirational impact on young cricketers on home soil and, through the ECB’s excellent Chance to Shine programme, bring even more youngsters to the game.
But, of course the men’s team’s success is equalled by the England women’s cricket squad who are current holders of the Ashes and the World Cup. I wish them the best of luck as they too look to retain the Ashes in Australia later this month.
Getting more women playing sport is absolutely crucial if we are to increase participation levels in this country. This week I was in Nottingham at the launch of Sport England’s Active Women initiative which is investing £10m in 20 projects for women from disadvantaged communities and those that care for children, to get involved in sport.
It was great to hear from new mum Gail Emms at the event about some of the barriers that she faces fitting exercise into her life now she has a family. Even just getting 30 minutes in is a challenge, she says, and this is from an Olympian who loves sport.
Active Women is about tackling these barriers so that it is easier for women to take part in sport. And I can see from the women I met at Mapperly Sports Village that it is already making a difference.
But tackling participation at the grassroots is just the tip of the iceberg. Women’s sport is still largely under-represented in the media despite international success in cricket, rugby and football. There also remains a lack of female representation at senior management levels at many of our national sport governing bodies too. These factors also contribute to the gender gap in sports participation and it is something that I want to see redressed.