Steady progress and more visibility ensures momentum continues for women’s sport

Katie Taylor, women’s sports trailblazer, took top spot for an incredible seventh year in a row

The momentum behind the women in sport movement in Ireland has been going at pace for the last number of years as evidenced by the annual Teneo Sport and Sponsorship Index (TSSI). This 1,000 person nationally representative piece of research has been exploring Irish people’s attitudes towards sport and sponsorship for 14 years and has had a particular focus on women’s sport since 2018.

Over the last six years this research has highlighted where progress has been made in a range of areas, and where there is still a way to go.

In 2022 and 2021 women athletes dominated the findings thanks to incredible individual and team performances.

While this year’s results do not see women athletes entirely dominate, there is evidence of continued and sustained progress that is very much sought after and welcome.


There has been no change for Irish people’s most admired athlete and Katie Taylor, an Irish sports trailblazer, takes top spot for an incredible seventh year in a row.

Taylor’s sporting performances, and outstanding qualities as a dignified role model, ensure that she transcends the sporting world and has reinforced herself as one of the most respected and recognised Irish people of all time. Katie’s impact goes way beyond sports fans, as this research among the general Irish public illustrates.

Another sign of progress in this area is that Katie McCabe is the first woman from a team sport to make it into the top six of the most admired athlete category (4 per cent).

This is thanks to her consistent performances for the Republic of Ireland but also her performances for Arsenal, which is becoming more familiar to football fans in Ireland with strong promotion of the Women’s Super League through several media outlets. This is very much a signal that exposure and visibility has helped people appreciate her talents.

When it comes to media coverage of women’s sport in Ireland, we are seeing sustained progress in the eyes of the Irish public with almost half (47 per cent) saying that they believe women’s sport receives sufficient media coverage. Credit is due to the likes of The Irish Times, RTÉ, TG4 and others, who have made a conscious effort to support the women’s codes. While this statistic is not where it needs to be, this is the best it has been since the TSSI started exploring this topic in 2018.

It is not just the quantity but the quality of how women’s sport appears in the media that is important and once again 80 per cent of the Irish public believe that this has improved over the last 12 months. The quantity of coverage has undoubtedly grown, as has the quality of the product on the sports fields and in the arenas, and indeed the analysis and scrutiny around it.

Improved coverage is certainly paying off when we look at those who have tuned in either on TV or online to watch women’s sport with 59 per cent saying they had done so this year, this jumps to 65 per cent for those aged over 55 – the highest cohort by a considerable margin.

This statistic is another strong proof point of progress as it is up from 52 per cent last year and 46 per cent in 2021. One would think that the Republic of Ireland’s debut at the Women’s World Cup, as well as the extensive coverage of the tournament provided by RTÉ, would have had a positive impact here. RTÉ numbers stated that an average of 511,000 viewers watched the Ireland versus Australia opening game on RTÉ2 – which equated to 77 per cent share of the people watching TV – and there were a further 360,000 streams on the RTÉ Player.

It should be noted that, while this type of media coverage is exceptionally important for women’s sport in terms of driving interest and attention, it is not completely make or break for an athlete. This is evidenced by Katie Taylor, whose fights are behind a paywall at a time that doesn’t suit young audiences. But the massive sports news attention she attracts and the follow-up exposure to her fights ensures her profile remains high.

Encouragingly, three in every five adults said they intend to watch a women’s sports event in 2024.

This time last year the TSSI showed that almost a quarter (24 per cent) of the Irish public said they planned to attend a women’s sports event in 2023, and the reality of this was that 19 per cent of people actually did.

While this figure may seem relatively low, we are still seeing progress here as it is up from 15 per cent in 2022.

A significant cohort who should be embraced by sports organisations are those aged 18 to 24, 37 per cent of whom attended a women’s sports event in person this year and almost half (47 per cent) said they want to attend in person in 2024. This is a group for those running sport at every level in Ireland to really embrace and try to capture.

The coming year is a big one for Irish sport and women’s sport. The Olympics and Paralympics will create new heroes and incredible stories. Heroes in the ring, on the track, on the water, in the water and on hockey and rugby pitches in Paris will dominate our screens.

A new era for Eileen Gleeson’s girls in green and more local glory for our ladies football and camogie stars awaits. Sustainable momentum for women in sport continues to build.

– Kelli O’Keeffe is the managing director of Teneo Ireland Sports Advisory

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