20×20 – Camogie no longer on the sidelines

By Aoife Kearns

Since its launch in October 2019, the 20×20 campaign has made significant strides in its objective to raise the profile of women’s sport in Ireland. On an international scale, this year has been a triumphant one in terms of coverage of women’s sport. In the U.K, 6.1 million people tune in to the Women’s World Cup England v Scotland game on BBC television, but in Ireland, it was women’s indigenous sport that topped viewership figures.

Camogie, alongside its male counterpart hurling, holds the title of the fastest field-sport in Europe, with immense skill and stamina required for players to compete at the highest level. Although Ladies Gaelic football has consistently produced massive numbers in terms of match attendance, with 56,114 people attending the Dublin-Galway All Ireland Final, according to the RTÉ Audience Insight figures for 2019. The All Ireland Camogie Final was the most viewed women’s sports event in 2019, with viewership peaking at 323,400.

The popularity of women’s indigenous sports may come as somewhat of a surprise, but this trend is also reflected in Australia, in terms of Women’s Aussie Rules. According to The Commonwealth Bank Women in Sport 2019 Study, women’s AFL was the most popular sport across fives states in the country, and the 2019 Women’s AFL final between Adelaide and Carlton was watched live by 409,000 people. The study attributed the increased interest to the increase in coverage across media outlets in the country, particularly on TV which increased by 31%.

This increase in media coverage is one of the three objectives of the 20×20 campaign, that hopes to see a 20% increase in attendance, participation and coverage of women’s sport by the year 2020. One year on, it seems the campaign is already after sparking a huge shift in people’s perspectives. The increase in media coverage has raised the profile of some of our best female sports stars, one of the main objectives of the campaign because, if she can’t see it, she can’t be it.

Dublin camogie player, Laura Twomey, spoke to TheCity.ie about how her year as a 20×20 ambassador has been.

Laura said: “It was a huge privilege to be asked to be one of the ambassadors for 20×20. I suppose you don’t realise the impact your platform can have until you’ve been given an opportunity like that.

“I’m looking forward to going into the second year of it now and from this first year we’ll have a better understanding of what we need to do going forward.”

With one of the four objectives of the campaign focusing on raising the level of participation in women’s sport, Laura reflects on some of the ways she helped to do this throughout the year.

She said: “With 20×20, I’ve been given the chance to interact with a lot more younger girls, be it through coaching or just meeting through the different experiences I’ve been involved in with the campaign.

“It has been challenging at times trying to engage with other people, particularly people who wouldn’t have initially been interested in sport, but it has been a really rewarding experience so far.”

Laura explained how 20×20 has positively impacted camogie, not only on a national level but even in terms of underage and club teams.

Laura Twomey in action against Offaly in this year’s Liberty Insurance All Ireland Camogie Championship

She said: “I think that camogie as a sport is beginning to stand its own ground now. Even over the last year there has been some significant improvements and strides made with camogie.

“Breaking the attendance at the All Ireland Camogie Final in Croke Park was huge, getting over 25,000 supporters at Croke Park was massive for the game. But even from grassroots up there has been a major improvement.

“We’ve noticed at our club and county games here in Dublin, there has been a push to get younger teams out and support us which has made a big difference. It’s important to look at the end goal of the All Ireland Final, but for ourselves here in Dublin, we have seen a big boost in the smaller games and I believe that’s down to the success of the 20×20 Campaign.”

At the minute, 20×20 are posting videos on social media, showcasing the skills that young girls have in their respective sports.

Speaking about how successful this has been so far, Laura said: “The most recent campaign called Show Your Skill has been really significant, particularly with camogie considering the level of skill that’s required to play the game. I think it’s really putting it on a stage and the girls who have posted these videos have been given the opportunity to exhibit what they can really do.

“This is the first campaign where they’ve asked the public to take part, and I think that is working wonders particularly for the younger girls who’ve been putting up clips of them training.

“When it comes to camogie, previously we weren’t getting the attendance that we would have hoped for. Show your skill has hopefully shifted cultural perspectives of what the standard of female sport truly is.”

The west came out best in the All-Ireland Camogie Final this year, with a robust Galway beating 2016 champions Kilkenny by six points at Croke Park. This game may be noted for the huge increase in attendance, but as well as this, it was the most viewed women’s sports game of 2019 in Ireland.

Laura said: “I was so surprised when RTÉ’s Elaine Buckley revealed that the camogie final was the most viewed live women’s sports event. It’s incredible really. It just shows the desire to watch the game and the heightened publicity around it thanks to of 20×20.

“Hopefully this will put a little bit more pressure on broadcasters and other media outlets who have the power to give camogie the platform it deserves. It’s definitely going in the right direction but we still have another bit to go yet.”

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