A Yonder Whitepaper series


Make your own rules

Longstanding cultural tradition shapes perceptions of classical British sports. Cricket (national sport of England) and golf (origins in Scotland) are fitting examples of physical activities which go hand-in-hand with tradition, custom, and values. But why, some 400 years since the UK’s first cricket match, and 260 years since the first golf course was opened, are women still deterred from these quintessentially British sports?

Women and girls are quick to point out the imagery associated with cricket and golf: white cricket trousers and men’s golf vests might come to mind, along with anecdotes of male friends or family members gathering at the weekend for a leisurely match.

Further to the personal experience, participants’ representations of these sports drew heavily on their awareness of national teams and their televised performance. The three sports which were perceived by most participants as ‘equally for men and for women’ – athletics, tennis and swimming – all stand out for their capacity to unite male and female athletes within the same tournament or setting. A spectator who spends money to watch these sports at the elite level, or someone who tunes in on television, will see the performance of male and female athletes side by side. Whether intentional or a product of practicality, this format can be seen as a simple means of sharing the spotlight on both men’s and women’s fixtures.

Cricket is a sport that’s traditionally been run by men, for men.

Sports expert (Cricket)

To a greater extent than football and rugby, the narrative among women and girls was clear: that golf and cricket were ‘male sports’. This sentiment can generally be attributed to two core requirements of these sports. Not speed, strength, or agility, as may be the case in male-dominated sports. Rather, the requirements of time and money, which, traditionally, were male assets.

Times have naturally changed since the origins of competitive sports. Golf and cricket have evolved to offer a greater range of kit items across a range of price points. Yonder’s prohibitive costs emerged as the greatest barrier to participation across both genders in our work. Just over two-fifths (42%) of the total participants claimed this to be the case, a challenge likely execrated by recent increases in living costs and raised by men and women in similar measures (41% men; 43% women).

As for the second requirement, there remains a strong assumption that women assume the bulk of domestic labour and caregiving.

There’s still a huge pressure for you to be the best mum you can possibly be, and that means sacrificing some of your own personal interests [….] and I think ultimately, there’s the pressures of time. If you are working more, you’re trying to hold down a career, you’re trying to look after your kids, where does the time for you actually fit in? And the reality is, for most people, it doesn’t.


Of Yonder’s survey participants, two-fifths (40%) identified a lack of time as a barrier to sports, exercise, or physical activity. However, contrary to what tradition might suggest, women no longer appear to be more time deficient than men. 44% of men perceived time to be a key barrier, in comparison with 37% of women. We can infer from this that women do have sufficient time to engage in physical activity, rather, they choose to invest their time in other walks of life, or feel pressurised to do so.

Similar behaviour trends can be across the continent where, according to Eurobarometer’s 2022 survey, men are more likely than women to be members of a sports club (16% compared with 10%). Meanwhile, women are 5% more likely than men to engage in sport or another physical activity at home (40% compared with 35%). Across all ages, women were considerably more likely than men to name at-home workouts as their favoured form of physical activity. For many, motivation was accompanied by a fear of entering into an unfamiliar sporting environment without the company of a friend or family member: a catch-22 whereby women are less likely to hold existing friendship circles based solely around sport, and are hesitant to enter these spaces in isolation.

All the sports that have clubhouses […] The majority of those clubhouses are not in a welcoming state to receive women and for women to feel welcome.

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