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My Sporting Life: All you need is love…

SGLP’s Simon Gresswell gives a personal view on how women’s sport has added to his love of sport, the business of sport and the power of sport to change the world, in several new dimensions.

I’d argue you need plenty of passion too, if you’re a sports fan.

Passion for your hero, passion for your team, passion for your country, passion for your sport… and probably a bit of a passion for fashion too, as sport has given rise to so many iconic garments, trends and looks over the decades.

So, if music be the food of love… then for me, sport is the sweetest pudding of passion.

We have all watched participation, engagement and interest in women’s sport grow exponentially in the last few years, with exciting commensurate commercial interest from brands and celebrities alike.

Maybe it’s because my mum always had a bullet-like throw – from playing cricket in her youth in East London and Essex, and still played beach cricket on holidays in Cornwall until a few years ago – that I’ve always had a deep-rooted respect for the so-called ‘fairer sex’, when it comes to sport. And I use that anachronistic term deliberately for a point I make at the end of this piece.

Allow me to outline my experiences and gradually growing appreciation of participation, engagement and interest in women’s sport and how it relates to my two industries, sport and licensing, and also how it has made, and still makes me feel… from my perspective, as a boy, a son, a brother, a man, a husband, a dad and a father-in-law to be… and overall of course, as a passionate sports fan and a dedicated observer (more than follower, obvs) of fashion.

As a boy, some of my early sporting memories include world firsts, such as Mark Spitz’s seven swimming gold medals at the Munich Olympics (I wanted trunks like his and the moustache, even at six years old) and Nadia Comaneci’s ‘Perfect 10’ at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Congrats to which does offer a small range celebrating her gravity-defying feats.


Dear IOC and Fanatics, love some of what you’re doing with Olympic and heritage collections, but where is the retro merchandise for this type of first in sports history? Or retro takes on the trackies and gymnastics kit of the Romanian and other teams, for that matter? They’re in the creative melting plot, right? Of course, I know Pierre de Coubertin doesn’t charge you any royalties, but shouldn’t we celebrate the iconic heroes, characters, personalities and ‘fashion’ of the Games… the athletes?

As a son, I used to marvel at my mum’s ‘arm’, her forehand in tennis and backhand in table tennis and her ability to try her hand at any sport, literally. I was wowed by her skills and her kit and admit to borrowing her Fred Perry socks, polo shirt and sleeveless sweater at various ages, when I didn’t really fit into them… and honestly, probably even when I was too old. These were iconic garments, from a great enduring British brand… the forerunner to Team GB x adidas, or Wimbledon’s very own apparel collection.

Also as a son, I remember on one occasion being taken to the ‘bally’ (as it was pronounced in Billy Elliot), thanks to a client of my dad’s (yes, sounds posh and it was, but tbh he is the most unlikely genuine East Ender and lifelong West Ham fan you’ll ever meet). Some 45 years later, I find myself working with The Royal Ballet. As a testament to their cool and the ongoing trend of balletcore, witness the All Saints x Royal Ballet collaboration from winter last year, which showcased just how cool a source of inspiration the arts can be. And for anyone that doesn’t think ballet dancers are some of the most elite of elite athletes, check this pic out…


As a brother, I remember being annoyed that I couldn’t find my rugby shirt as a 10 year old kid. It had been ‘poggled’ (my wife’s family word for unsolicited borrowing) by my older sister, desperate to look on-trend in the late 70s… well I think that’s why. And what of the humble rugby shirt now? I’ll let others more qualified tell you if it’s back on trend, but there’s plenty of iconic garments hailing from sport that continue to grace the runways, stadia and high streets of the world. And just check out what Whitney Bansin and the amazing people at are doing for US sports-inspired fashion for women and men.

As a man, among my top 10 sporting heroes of all time, is the peerless Serena Williams, with her record-breaking run at number one and 23 slams in total. Who can forget Andy Murray correcting a US journalist, when they said that Sam Querry was “the first American to reach a SF at Wimbledon since 2009”, to which Andy interjected dryly “male player”.

To other sporting heroes of the last two decades, I’ve admired Becky Adlington, Fran Halsall, Keri-Anne Payne, Cassie Patten and indeed all GB swimmers (even the men) who have ever won medals on the global stage, given our limited facilities in this country and what about the Ashes-winning England & Wales Women’s cricket team, given our weather.

And yes, let’s face it, ‘the beautiful game’ has been tarnished in many ways over recent years by men, but has most recently been brilliantly revitalised by the Lionesses, with their amazing Euro 2022 win and oh-so-near loss in the World Cup Final of 2023.

To be fair, England were outclassed in the second half, Spain kept possession and slowed down every bit of play or set piece. A very professional performance, for which they deserve the plaudits, but at the final whistle (after only one minute of extra time), what struck me was the really warm exchanges and lingering hugs, between opposition players, who in that moment were realising and sharing the emotions of the sacrifices, the commitment and dare I say, the journey, they have all been on as women.


And who didn’t agree with Mary Earps’ gripe about sales and availability of her Nike GK jersey? Even halftime analysis was clearer and more concise than the male equivalent… not the usual, almost-caricature moaning or spitting venom. And just google the TV audience numbers for that Final.

As someone who plies their trade primarily in sports, there’s also now empiric proof that brands that ‘play’ in the sports space are better thought of and more likely to win a purchase decision, from their application to DE&I issues and objectives.

The Rajasthan Royals have always innovated among their peer franchises in the last 15-16 seasons of the Indian Premier League. They are not alone in having women among their owners/investors, but they were the first to have a women’s brand (Niine) as main shirt sponsor a few seasons ago. And this past weekend in this year’s IPL, the players wore an all pink kit, in support of the #PinkPromise campaign, which launched in March before the season began, in support of female empowerment in the province, with the capital Jaipur known as the Pink City.


As a dad I’ve been mainly used to watching huge sporting occasions with clients, mates and colleagues over the years, but absolutely loved watching the Women’s Euros Final at an open-air bar on a giant screen in Birmingham city centre, with my then 24 year old daughter.

She’s not into football (and sadly is marrying a Chelsea fan next year), but we were all up on chairs and then off them leaping around, when Chloe Kelly toe-poked England to victory and started her joyous, top-off celebration – revealing no sleeved arms or controversial ink, just a totally appropriate and inoffensive undergarment of a true athlete. That’s just how she role models.

SG3We were in Brum that day for the Commonwealth Games, having seen the great party spectacle that is Men’s and Women’s Beach Volleyball. That day had already taken me right back to London 2012, when again as a family, we went to the BVB at Horse Guards Parade, and by chance had the Czech Women’s team’s girlfriends, sat right in front of us, which made my 12 year old daughter feel like she was actually related to players on the court!

Two weeks later, we saw the Corinthian spirit of para and disabled athletes. Privileged to be at the Olympic Stadium – on what we still call our Paralympics’ ‘Fantastic Friday’ – I joked to my daughter that I’d start the wave… and then did… and we finally had 80,000 people doing it, adding to the joy of the night on the track and off it and in a few minutes – but only for a few minutes – transforming my role as ‘Embarrassing Dad’ to ‘Leg Dad’.

As a family, we also were off the sofas and hugging like the players seven years later, when England scraped home against the Black Caps at Lord’s at the Cricket World Cup in 2019.


Apart from beach cricket, my wife and daughter would normally rather stick pins in their eyes (or my eyes, on various Super Saturdays) rather than sit through any sport that lasts longer than the blink of an eye. But, just in these moments, my daughter got to know the proverbial ‘household names’ of our winning teams, just as I had all my life, only with more wins in her much shorter lifetime.

As a future father-in-law, I took my daughter’s then BF to one of the Women’s Euros SF at MK Stadium, between Germany and France. The atmosphere was amazing, familial, positive, supportive, without a single ‘eff or jeff’ around us all match. The bars were not swamped, the skill levels and competitive spirit on the pitch were absolutely no different to the men, without all the diving, rolling around and rearranging of scrunchies and hair bands (yes, I’m still talking about the Women’s SF). The experience was genuinely uplifting and a reminder what sport and the appreciation of sport, should be. It felt like a time when there was less bile and less constant profanity at all sporting events… and that, my friends, was a very long time ago.

In summary – as I write, the London Lions Women’s basketball team, who have already become the first ever British basketball team to reach a EuroCup final, are on the eve of trying to reverse a seven-point margin at the Copper Box Arena tomorrow evening, against Besiktas from Turkey.

Right up there too over recent years, are The Red Roses (rugby) and the Roses (netball), both pushing the boundaries of sport on and off the pitch/court, not just women’s sport. Stars of various women’s teams are also addressing specific kit challenges and barriers to participation, which girls and women seem to run up against much more than boys and men. The Women’s Irish Six Nations squad, have ‘tackled’ a women’s issue by changing the colour of their shorts, in order to highlight such potential barriers and I’ve met a few entrepreneurs out there, working to develop the perfect sports bra… and also sports bras that ‘grow’ with the wearer.


So, in summary, I would like to suggest that women’s sport, isn’t so much teaching us lessons, as reminding us of the joy of playing, watching and experiencing live sport.

It’s added to my love of sport, the business of sport and the power of sport to change the world, in several new dimensions.

As I intimated earlier, women’s sport is quite literally played by the ‘fairer’ sex and certainly women just seem to care just as much, if not more than men, about the evolution of sport. After all, to care less about it, would be careless.

This piece was meant for release on International Women’s Day, 8 March. Very sadly, one of my two greatest sporting heroes, my mum, passed away peacefully on 7 March, so I took a strategic time-out for a few weeks. RIP Mum, this a nod to you.

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