Shifting the agenda

Libby Barnett, one of the Island's best sporting stars, led her JFA Women's side to a comprehensive 4-1 victory over bitter rivals Guernsey on away soil in 2023 Picture: Sophie Rabey

FEMALE leaders in Jersey’s sport scene have called on local clubs to create an “inclusive environment” in which women and girls can participate and excel.

Jersey Cricket’s first female chief executive, Sarah Gomersall, and Libby Barnett, sports partnership manager at Jersey Sport, coach and player for Jersey Wanderers and JFA Women’s football captain, were speaking on an International Women’s Day special of the Bailiwick Podcast.

The theme of International Women’s Day this year is ‘Inspiring Inclusion’ – ensuring the needs, interests, and aspirations of women and girls are valued and included.

And one of the areas of the global campaign is elevating women and girls’ participation and achievement in sport.

On the podcast, which is sponsored by Brooks Macdonald, Miss Gomersall said: “People are more engaged by three times if they feel like they’re in a welcoming, inclusive environment.

“It’s on all of us to be able to set that up in whatever sport we’re in.

“This includes practical things about making it more welcoming, so people know exactly what they’re going to experience when they get there.

“A big thing for girls is knowing who’s going to be there, ensuring there’s a familiar face or a friend.

“We need to be talking to girls to find out what is it that will make it more inclusive for them, and then we can put that in place.”

She added that visibility in the sport inspired inclusion, and that the Jersey Women’s Cricket Team had been invited to their first televised tournament in December – the European Cricket Championship, which is televised on Sky and YouTube.

Miss Gomersall continued: “Everybody can see the person that they know, and they aspire to be on TV.”

“The Week of International Women’s Day is vital, because it’s one week out of 52 where people stop and think about women in sport or in their careers and we need to do more of that.

“We’re talking about male-dominated, historically male sports, and the more we can get the agenda shifted, and inspire inclusivity, the more we will make progress.

“It’s very easy to carry on doing what you’ve always done, and it’s going to take some brave decisions. One of our most successful cricket teams is Old Victorians. That is by its very essence a team from a boys school.

“But we need to get more girls playing. So, at the Old Victorians club, someone brave will need to say: why don’t we have a girl’s side? And that means changing conversations that have been embedded in tradition for a long time.”

Miss Barnett, who is a player, coach, committee member and liaison for Jersey Wanderers FC and the JFA Island Representative side at Muratti and Island Games since 2009, said that inclusion meant “taking down barriers”.

These, she continued, could include “financial barriers” such as annual subscriptions or club fees – and she urged more to adopt the hardship fund that some clubs operate.

She said: “This can also mean insufficient facilities. There may not be appropriate, fit-for-purpose facilities, especially in team sports or male-dominated sports.

“At Jersey Wanderers, we went from having one senior women’s team to offering junior girls, and our clubhouse is completely not fit for purpose. We have one female toilet and it opens out onto our bar.

“Where the sport has evolved and grown, the facilities or the infrastructure is unable to keep up. We would love to build something that’s fit for purpose, we just don’t have the finances within the club to do so.”

nThe Bailiwick Podcast with Sarah Gomersall and Libby Barnett will be released tomorrow with links via JEP and Bailiwick Express social media

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