Televising women’s sport ‘gives a sense of validation’ – Gemma Fay

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Scotland v Canada (footage courtesy of BBC ALBA)

Televising games “opens the eyes of the public” to the reality of women’s sport in Scotland, says former Scotland international Gemma Fay.

Now head of girl’s and women’s game for Scottish Rugby, she believes airing matches helps change perceptions for the better.

“As a player and athlete, it gives you a sense of validation,” she said.

“It shows a respect for the sport that it deserves and puts it more in the psyche of the public.”

Women’s international rugby was first televised in 2016 during the Six Nations and, more recently, Scotland versus Canada was broadcast by BBC ALBA as part of a new deal to televise women’s games across the UK as well as their coverage of women’s football.

Goalkeeper Fay, 36, was capped 203 times for her country and admits coverage led to recognition of their efforts on the pitch.

“It created a better conversation with people you met,” she told BBC Scotland.

“It’s fantastic for young girls and women to see these role models on TV that they can aspire to be, but it doesn’t tend to be the girls that need convincing to play the sport, it’s the people around it that make sport happen.

“It’s hugely important for people outwith sport, or people who don’t know that this is something women could do to that level, to see it as well.”

Fay was in the net for the first Scotland international televised – the World Cup qualifier play-off victory for Scotland against Russia back in 2008, when the side was captained by now head coach Shelley Kerr.

She believes the way to get more people watching and supporting women’s sport is by “putting inspiration performances out there.”

“{The Canada fixture} was an end-to-end game, with moments of controversy, agonising moments and a real chance they could pull off a performance against a top-four nation. If you have more of those types of games, that’s fantastic.”

Fay changed sport after her retirement from the game following Scotland’s first appearance in the finals of a major tournament – the European Championship in 2017.

“I had a career of over 20 years in football,” explained the former Hibernian, Celtic, Glasgow City and Stjarnan player. “From when I started to when I finished, there was an absolutely huge shift in attitudes towards and people and resources involved in the sport.

“If we can keep exposing more and more people to that and pushing the girls to perform better, the future can only be exciting.”

Gemma Fay in action for Scotland against Russia in the first televised women's game in October 2008
Fay played for Scotland against Russia in the first televised women’s game in October 2008

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