Friday 28 April 2017

Low spirits as court rules cheerleading not a sport

Nick Allen in Los Angeles

Cheerleaders have been angered by a US court ruling that their pom pom routines do not constitute a competitive sport.

In a ruling that could have ramifications for the most popular girls at colleges across the country, cheerleading was deemed too "disorganised" for full sporting status and declared a "support activity".

The decision followed a legal case brought by players on a university women's volleyball team who claimed they were the victims of discrimination in favour of cheerleaders.

Quinnipiac University in Connecticut announced in March last year that it was cutting the women's volleyball team to save money. That would have put it in breach of equality laws that require it to offer similar athletic opportunities for male and female students.

The university said it would instead offer a sporting outlet for girls by setting up a cheerleading squad, which was cheaper.

Volleyball players were outraged and sued the university, arguing that cheerleading was not a sport.

US District Judge Stefan Underhill ruled: "Competitive cheer may, some time in the future, qualify as a sport. Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganised to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students."

It was believed to be the first time the sporting status of college cheerleading has been decided by a judge.

Mary Ann Powers, the cheerleaders' coach, said they had been unfairly stereotyped as "the bobby socks, the ponytail and skirt and the girl that wants to be liked by all the boys". She said her team comprised of high-level gymnasts who had to perform specific tumbling and throwing elements.

Ms Powers said: "I think what offends cheerleaders more than anything is other women degrading them and knocking what they do."

The volleyball team, which won only five of its 35 games last year, has been reinstated. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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