With Canada set to compete once again for Olympic gold in women’s hockey this week, the debate about whether the sport even deserves to be in the Olympics has been reignited.
However, University of Guelph sports management expert Dr. Ann Pegoraro argues the real focus should be on further investing in women’s sports.
The argument to remove women’s hockey from the Olympics is based on the idea that the Canadian and U.S. teams dominate their rivals and make it to the finals almost every year, so there isn’t a true competition.
But Pegoraro, the co-director of the National Network for Research on Gender Equity in Canadian Sport, argues removing the event is not the solution. Instead, the current situation with women’s Olympic hockey provides an example of how other countries need to increase investment in the sport, she said.
“So, it is not that our teams are too good. It’s that other nations have not stepped up their efforts to meet the challenge.”
She said there are plenty of examples of women’s sports that have benefited from increased investment and led to prosperous returns.
Referring to the Women’s National Basketball Association in the U.S, she said, “The WNBA is now 25 years old. It’s the most established women’s sport professional league and just raised $75 million in investments. Perhaps people are finally seeing the return-on-investment potential.”
Another example is the National Women’s Soccer League where the Washington Spirit franchise just sold for $35 million. Interest is high in Canada thanks to the Canadian women’s soccer team winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics last year, said Pegoraro.
“More than 4 million Canadians watched that game. That’s 11 per cent of the population. It was the most watched moment of the games and a larger audience than the Stanley Cup finals.”
Canada and the United States have invested “not enough but more than other nations” in women’s hockey and it’s time other countries model their systems to fund the development of players, she added.
Pegoraro is U of G’s Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics Chair in Sport Management and the director of the International Institute for Sport Business and Leadership. Her research interests include gender equity, sport consumers, marketing and communication.
She is available for interviews.
Dr. Ann Pegoraro