Ladies Day


5th April 2019 nickfarnsworth


Ladies day at the races always adds a little excitement.

But where does Ladies Day come from and should other sports be following?

As far as I can see Ladies Day is typically associated with Horse Racing, and very few other sports. Ladies dressed to the nines, enjoying a flutter and a glass of champagne… what’s not to enjoy if you are a lady,… or a man? We all like to have a bit of fun, but should ladies be doing it independently.

There is very little about the origins of Ladies Day. I could not even find it on Wikipedia, so I had to dig a little further. I suspect the origins are in a clever little marketing team who thought to themselves, “racing is a bit stuffy, something for the old boys,… how do we broaden the audience?”.

Let’s be honest, most sports have faced that question. As a sports-themed toy brand, my biggest frustration is when someone describes my toys as “boys toys”.

Several football clubs run Ladies Day but a quick google suggests it is not commonplace. There aren’t many. Not surprisingly, when I started to google which clubs celebrate “Ladies”, Motherwell F.C. was one of them.

Women’s football meanwhile is the fastest growing sports and this year we will see the Women’s World Cup in June. Luke Edwards made a good point in The Telegraph, he argued that the social stigma of introducing your daughter to football has gone. My personal belief is that there has never been a better time to introduce your daughter to football.

Rugby is similar. Lots of rugby clubs have a Ladies Day but very few of those play in the Premiership. Ladies Day is more common and a good, fun day at many rugby clubs across the country – an opportunity for many women to come and watch the men play a match… Let me repeat, an opportunity for the women to come and watch the men.

Women’s rugby is growing in popularity but I agree it has still not (quite) entered the mainstream. Depending on your newssource, some say women’s rugby is growing faster than football.

Where football has eliminated the social stigma, I would say rugby still is perceived as a male sport. Women’s rugby matches tend to attract a mainly, but not only, female audience although most male rugby fans acknowledge that women’s rugby is a seriously high standard. Further, I think that parents think twice about encouraging their daughter to play rugby.

Golf is quite interesting. Golf was/is famed for being snooty. There are still some clubs of the highest standard where ladies aren’t even eligible. There are some clubs that now allow women, although there is difference between allowing women and welcoming women. Now, these clubs are few – very un-PC – and let’s face it, golf clubs need the members so attitudes are changing.

From my experience of golf clubs, most clubs arrange golf days for the Ladies. It is normal for women to play on different days to the men, much to the disapproval of ladies who frequently find that men are given the best tee times, particularly over the weekend. Attitudes are changing. As I write this, the Jordan Mixed Open is the first tournament in which men and women compete for the same prize.

As I dug into the history of Ladies Day, I did discover there is an International Golf day, 4 June – put it in your diary! (https://womensgolfday.com). It will be a tough gig, the Womens football world cup kicks off at the same time.

Does Tennis need a ladies day? As popular with men and women… well, not quite. I have even been told my tennis racket is a boy toy. Really? I have to remind people that there have been as many women winners at Wimbledon as men.

Do young girls feel tennis is a gender-neutral sport? Possibly but when I watch the junior squads training, there are still far more boys in the mix. Why? Are young girls losing interest in tennis before they even become a teenager? Is it not fun for girls? Serena certainly feels that the elite players are discriminated against at a senior level, but what about the teenage girls. It is not just about the prize money, why are there so few girls hitting tennis balls over a net in the junior levels.

This is opening a big can of worms in the tennis world. Big personalities from the tennis world have taken the All England Club to task over the treatment of women in Grand Slams. Serena Williams asked the All England club to look her daughter in the eye and tell them that she should not be treated the same as the men? Powerful stuff, but she has a point. Yes, women play a shorter match but does it matter? What if the quality is amazing? I sympathise that watching Serena win in a couple of sets doesn’t have the same appeal as a classic five-setter but equally Djokovic beating Anderson in three sets also fell well short of a Wimbledon classic final. John McEnroe’s argument is that you would not pay less for a shorter film at the cinema.

Whilst horse racing is enjoying ladies day, is this something other sports should follow? Do they need to? Does a sport need to encourage women over men or should they all be treated equally? Well, ladies day at the races is known for the amazing hats so “hats off” to the clever marketeers who invented “ladies day”.

I would love to hear your thoughts.