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In 1993 the Sports Council’s new policy document, Women and Sport, recommended that all national governing bodies of sport ‘establish a single governing body’. Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, almost all women’s sports that were administered separately to their male counterparts therefore ‘merged’ with the men’s governing body: squash in 1989, football and athletics in 1992, lacrosse in 1996, and hockey and cricket in 1998. In practice, these mergers became ‘takeovers’, whereby female administrators were forced to cede governance of their sports to male-run bodies whose priority and focus remained men’s sport.

Work has been conducted on the impact of this process on individual sports, with cricket being a particular focus (Velija et al 2012, Nicholson 2019). Internationally, studies of similar amalgamations between men's and women's sporting organisations have found that such processes increase male control at the expense of female autonomy (Cox and Thompson 2003, Lovett and Lowry 1995, Stronach and Adair 2009). However, there has been no study which considers the impact of the Sports Council’s policy on the UK sporting landscape as a whole.

This paper begins that process, reviewing the mergers in the context of various sports and asking the key question: How does a government policy of forced integration of women’s and men’s sport affect those sports in practice?