Monday 17 June 2019

'The men wouldn't have to do anything like that'- Dublin ladies footballer hits out at lack of investment in women's sport

Ciara McGuigan of Dublin during the Lidl Ladies NFL Round 2 match between Tipperary and Dublin at Ardfinnan in Tipperary. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Ciara McGuigan of Dublin during the Lidl Ladies NFL Round 2 match between Tipperary and Dublin at Ardfinnan in Tipperary. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

John Morley

The Dublin ladies footballers are going for three All Irelands in a row this season.

 The sky blues have mirrored their male counterparts in the capitals domination of Gaelic football with dynamic displays and convincing wins against arguably the best GAA team in history, the Cork ladies.

Despite this success and playing in front of 50,141 people last September on All-Ireland day, the Dublin ladies still struggle to find corporate investment, and are forced to organise 'golf classics' and other small scale fundraising events.

Ciara McGuigan is an All-Ireland winner at both minor and Under-21 level with Dublin and has completed her Masters in Marketing in Technology University Dublin, with her dissertation focusing on 'The Benefits, Return on Investment and Brand Engagement within Ladies Gaelic Football & Camogie', for sponsors.

McGuigan found that women's sport receives just 0.4% of corporate investment globally. Speaking on the drastic gulf between investments in women's sport and men's sport, McGuigan isn't surprised by the statistic of 0.4%, considering the fundraising lengths the three in-a-row All-Ireland seeking Dublin ladies have gone to this year.

"You'd be surprised at the start when you read that statistic but then when you look into it, playing with Dublin Ladies, we just finished our golf classic a few weeks ago to make sponsorship money for the year whereas the men never have to do anything like that," McGuigan tells

"The [Dublin Ladies] just won the All-Ireland last year and we're still going out looking for sponsorship with the golf classic.

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Dublin's Carla Rowe (left) and Sinead Aherne. Photo: Sportsfile

"The men would never have to do anything like that, they would have twenty or thirty businesses backing them every year, so its not that surprising when you look into it," added McGuigan.

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McGuigan sympathised with corporate sponsors as she realises that they must look for teams who will get them media coverage to make investments commercially viable.

"I think its hard for sponsors because they look at it like, 'Okay, we're going to sponsor whatever team is going to give us media coverage' so why sponsor a women's team if they're not going to get the recognition?

"So it's hard for them to go back to their directors and people who are going to make the big decisions and say 'Okay, we're going to sponsor this woman athlete who is running in the Olympics but nobody knows her name', so how is their brand going to get out there?"

With the domination of male sport in the media McGuigan said that the "big improvements" that sponsorship of women teams can have on a brand can be overlooked.

"I feel like it's hard to convince people to sponsor women's sport and when I talk to Lidl and Liberty Insurance who have participated, it shows that it has had a big improvement on how their brand is thought of in Ireland."

McGuigan believes that double headers with the men's teams could be a crucial move for the sponsorship of the teams in both the women's codes to create more incentive for sponsorship through greater exposure.

"There's definitely things that governing bodies for ladies sport can do. You look at last week when Dublin camogie played Kilkenny camogie at two o'clock in Dublin and Kilkenny men played the Dublin men at five o'clock down in Kilkenny.

"There was no double header and there was no talk of it. The Camogie body probably never even thought of going and asking can we have a double header. If they had done a double header more sponsors probably would have got involved instead of just Liberty Insurance. they could have got way more people involved, way more recognition for the girls involved with the brand and from that you're going to drive more sponsorship in the future."

On the latest episode of Dara O'Cinneide's 'GAA Eile' the Cork ladies manager, Ephie Fitzgerald, called for the amalgamation of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association and The Camogie Association with the GAA.

McGuigan believes that this is a great way to boost the profile of both the women's codes and that the template to it's success can be seen through AIG's sponsorship of the four Dublin teams.

"If they were under the one umbrella you could see double headers, it would be like the GAA with the way that they have multiple sponsors," she added.

Dublin stars Niamh Collins and Jonny Cooper launch AIG’s new #EffortIsEqual campaign which recognises that the effort, commitment and dedication amongst male and female players is equal
Dublin stars Niamh Collins and Jonny Cooper launch AIG’s new #EffortIsEqual campaign which recognises that the effort, commitment and dedication amongst male and female players is equal

"When Dublin GAA brought the four codes under the one sponsor [AIG].. It was huge and the impact they have for players and supporters, everyone was backing each code and I feel like if the GAA did that with camogie and ladies football, you're backing all four codes and recognition, media coverage, everything is going to go up."

A further incentive to coming under the GAA umbrella McGuigan supports is the rights to play on GAA grounds and facilities, which would be more readily available after merging with the organisation.

"You look at the amount of times that we've begged for Croke Park for ladies football or camogie matches and have not been given it for insignificant reasons when the men kind of get it week in and week out as if it's just another pitch.

"It's quite frustrating to see that the girls just get to play in Croke Park when they make finals, the men kind of play at any stage of the year.

"If it came under the GAA and you could do double headers and have fixture clashes."

McGuigan is a big supporter of the 20x20 women in sport campaign which hopes to boost coverage, participation and attendance of women's sport by 20% by 2020 and said that she will be interested to see how the results she has gathered will compare with sponsorship after the campaign.

"It will be interesting to compare the research I've done to that gathered after the 20x20 Campaign and see the rise of sponsorship and participation in sport for all girls at underage and at senior level."

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