1 June 2018

A tribute to Prof. Celia Brackenridge

Professor Celia Brackenridge, Co-Founder of Women in Sport, sadly passed away on 23 May 2018 after a courageous battle with Leukaemia. Celia was an international sportswoman and scholar who was a true trailblazer in the women’s sport movement.  Inspired by the work of Billie Jean King, Celia and fellow academics, Anita White, Sue Campbell, Margaret Talbot and Derek Wyatt, set up The Women’s Sport Foundation (as Women in Sport was originally known) in 1984.


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.”

It is my privilege to continue Celia’s amazing work today. When I was first appointed as CEO I contacted Celia and Anita White to find out more about their story and the origins of Women in Sport. We went for lunch and it was a truly inspirational day. Celia talked to me about how she was inspired by Billie Jean King and the Women’s Sport Foundation in the US.  About how she had wanted to put gender equality in sport on the agenda in the UK.  She told me she wanted women to be empowered by playing sport – and that it was wrong so many women and girls were denied access and missed out.  She was very clear that in her experience sport had been sexist – and as an outspoken feminist she felt a responsibility to change this.  She urged me to keep in mind that the charity was set up to ensure women and girls get the same health, wellness and lifestyle benefits from sport that men and boys do. She encouraged me to be outspoken; to disrupt and to challenge.  She also wanted everything the charity does to continue to be based on sound evidence.

I am proud that we continue her legacy and – as I told her when I met her – we are simply the custodians, for a short time, of this incredible organisation she created.  We will look after it and build it and make it a success during our time with it, and then we will hand it over in good shape to our successors, whoever they may be – but her influence will always live within the charity.

Last year the Anita White Foundation launched Women and Sport: The Change Makers website to preserve the heritage of the Women and Sport Movement. The site is dedicated to Celia; documenting her life and work to make sure she continues to educate and inspire the next generation of women and sport leaders. I encourage you to learn more about Celia’s incredible story and the impact she has had on the sporting world. I will be forever indebted to Celia for all that she has achieved for women in sport.

If you are interested in helping Women in Sport to continue Celia’s legacy, you can donate here.

Ruth Holdaway,

Chief Executive, Women in Sport