Women and Sport: The ChangeMakers
Professor Celia Brackenridge OBE
Scholar | Sportswoman | Activist
Celia co-established the Women’s Sports Foundation in 1984. The aims of the WSF were to promote the interests of all women in and through sport and to gain equal opportunities and options for all women. Celia chaired the Foundation from 1984 to 1988. WSF changed its name to the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF) in 2007 before becoming Women In Sport in 2014
Celia's work and influence
The aims and objectives of the WSF in 1984
Looking back, moving forwards...
Keynote speech given by Celia to WSF’s Annual Conference at Staffordshire University in 1999. She takes a retrospective and prospective view, identifying how “the WSF managed to transform itself from a kitchen-table rabble to a major and respected public force for women’s sport and recreation” as well as providing a vision for more equitable sport by 2009
Women’s low representation in leadership positions in sporting organisations has been a recurring issue for the women and sport movement since Celia and Anita first published research and drew attention to it in the early 1980s. The WSF, the WSFF and now Women in Sport have all continued to draw attention to the issue through regular audits and campaigns. Click the image to be taken to the report
In Celia's words
"(When we formed the) Women’s Sports Foundation in England: we agreed a set of aims and objectives, and the most important one I believe I proposed, was that we would work ‘in and through sport’. In other words, we wouldn’t just be interested in what was going on in sport but we were interested in sport as a wider mechanism for achieving social change and for me that is the absolutely crucial phrase and I hope it is still in the statutes or the objectives of the organisation. I think it is still there, but if it goes I will be very annoyed because for me that ties it to feminism more generally – in and through sport. So, in other words, we are not just living in a social bubble that is about sport performance and sport objectives, we are using sport as a tool for achieving wider social change and that is still my strong belief."
interview with Dr Jordan Matthews (2011)
Appreciation of Celia
Louise Jacklin, who worked with Celia in WSF’s early days
Louise was a mature PE student at Bishop Otter College from 1973-1977, when Anita White was a PE lecturer there. She was President of the Students Union (75-76) and gained a B.Ed (Hons) Class 1. She joined the WSF at its inception in 1984. After teaching and lecturing Louise changed career into local government and undertook the WSF’s regional role as London Coordinator from 1986 to 1991.
“After formally establishing the WSF with fellow academics, Celia turned her considerable energies to making the foundation ‘live’ as a national organisation that effectively could promote equalities, participation and equal opportunities for all women involved in sport.
As Chair of WSF from 1984 to 1988, and with her formidable networking skills, Celia successfully drew together support and active involvement across the country from women variously engaged with sport – in coaching, journalism, local authorities, elite performance, minority and non-traditional sports, disability access and grass roots sports development. The driving issue for WSF, which reflected Celia’s enduring vision, was to achieve equality for all women within the whole arena of sport. At this time, when significant inequality and discrimination existed as the norm, this was a very ambitious agenda. However, Celia was never a woman afraid to confront and tackle the big issues.
Celia operated through her network to establish an office for WSF in 1986, securing grant aid from the Sports Council, paid staff, and accommodation at the Women’s Centre, funded by Camden Council. This provided a centralised resource for WSF to co-ordinate its growing activities and membership, and to vigorously promote the equalities agenda. Although administration centred in London, Celia was continuously active on the national scene, pressing for change through the media and challenging the status quo held by governing bodies of sport. Under her inspiring leadership WSF developed a lead role, through its network vitality, to provide a shared voice and avenue for contesting the barriers to women’s opportunities.
Celia passed on the baton of WSF Chair to Anita White in 1988, but remained very active in her support of the foundation. Anita extended the work and profile of WSF, securing its formal recognition by the Sports Council as a national voluntary organisation.
Much was achieved in those early days of WSF. Although the landscape today is very different, with many more opportunities open to, and filled by women as leaders, participants, athletes, coaches and administrators, there are still lingering barriers to dismantle and discrimination to eradicate.
Celia truly deserves the appellation, Cometh the hour, cometh the woman, for her work and commitment to the nascent WSF, and to women and girls who love sport. Hopefully she won’t mind that this (slightly altered) term originated from men’s cricket, some decades before women were allowed to enter the Long Room at Lords.”