Teacher-researcher at the University of Paris Est-Créteil, former president of a men’s professional sports club (US Ivry Handball 2007-2012) and recently elected deputy vice-president of the French Handball Federation, Béatrice Barbusse is the author of the delivered Sexism in sport, published by Anamosa, in 2016. Interview.
What impact do you think the pandemic has had on women’s sport and its development?
Beatrice Barbusse She quit the practice. Apart from rugby and horse riding, where we saw more girls taking their license in September compared to the previous year, it has decreased everywhere. In a club, you can now play sport only outdoors and indoors if you are a professional or a high-level athlete, not to mention that for girls sport is not yet a priority in education. The shutdown of the economy halted the development of women’s sport which was on a good start. At the professional level, it is difficult to find new sponsors in the midst of the pandemic and some partners have even already reduced their contribution. With the games behind closed doors, there is a big shortfall in ticketing and subscriptions. It slows down development. But it is especially on next season that this will be felt.
That is to say ?
Beatrice Barbusse Halls and gymnasiums won’t reopen for a while I’m afraid, and for indoor sports it’s a disaster. Recovering the loss of licensees is going to be very difficult. It will take time. In women’s handball, the president of Brest (the biggest budget in the women’s league) announced that he had to save 1 million euros by the end of the season for a budget of 6.5 million. This means that there may be an exodus of French players. Finding money is going to be a real difficulty for the top level, club budgets will decrease… We are seriously starting, as in football, to talk about the fall in salaries and everyone will surely have to make an effort.
Could the economic repercussions have a lasting impact on the development of women’s sport?
Beatrice Barbusse With the health crisis, the turnover of French sport will drop considerably. Before the pandemic, most of this windfall went to boys, I do not see how, while this global envelope will decrease, girls would not be excluded as when everything was going well … I do not see the decision makers going from overnight from sexist to feminist. As Simone de Beauvoir pointed out: in times of crisis, whether economic, social, political, etc. We know very well that the question of women is called into question and there is no reason why sport should escape this rule.
Are there nevertheless advances?
Beatrice Barbusse Yes, but symbolic… I am thinking lately of Stéphanie Frappart, the international referee, who was recently ranked number one of the “30 personalities who make French football” in the team ahead of Kylian Mbappé and Didier Deschamps. With her there is also the coach Corinne Deacon or Florence Hardouin (general manager of the FFF), which was not the case last year. It is symbolic, especially in a newspaper which made less than 5% of its front pages on women’s sport in 2020 … At the international level, there was also Becky Hammon, who was promoted to head coach of the San Antonio Spurs when Gregg Popovich was excluded. This is the first time that a woman has become a coach of an NBA team! These are small things, trees that hide the forest …
Has the steady decrease in the budget of the Ministry of Sports in recent years had repercussions on the development of women’s sport?
Beatrice Barbusse There is no direct impact. But for women’s sport to develop, it is of course necessary to change mentalities because the main obstacle is socio-cultural, but changing mentalities will not be enough. We need resources! Without the means, we will not succeed. We must set up communication campaigns, training, actions that would stimulate this sector by creating tournaments, meetings … which require resources. So, indirectly, the decrease in the budget of the ministry goes against women’s development because when a budget decreases, it is the dominated who are the most affected.
A woman president of a great Olympic federation is impossible. Who votes? 80% of men have known each other for twenty to thirty years …
Has parity improved in recent years in sport, whether in terms of wages or in governance?
Beatrice Barbusse In some individual disciplines, such as surfing or tennis for example, the endowments are starting to level out. In professional sports, we must qualify because the economy is not the same as that of men’s sports. But in terms of victory bonuses, in the French boys and girls teams, parity is simply a political choice as we did in handball. Football has the means to do it. Regarding women leaders, there is an improvement in all federations thanks to the law on gender equality of August 2014 by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. This was not respected by all federations. And today a woman president of a large Olympic federation, it is impossible. Who votes? 80% of men have known each other for twenty to thirty years …
Your book Sexism in sport was released at the end of 2016. Four years later, would you make the same observation?
Beatrice Barbusse Things have evolved symbolically at the level of coaches, leaders, referees, but not yet sufficiently quantitatively. We are still far from a female tidal wave in sport. On gender stereotypes, we hardly see any more grotesque posters. But in terms of media coverage, progress is very slow … Women’s sport has no choice, if it wants to be publicized it must be ultra-efficient. Finally, from a sociological point of view, “a space for the defense of the cause of women” is being structured informally via social networks, and I will talk about it in my next book. It is interesting because it can create in the years to come a balance of power which could act as a counter-power. A new ecosystem is being built and helps to move things forward because it denounces and values.