Lack of investment largely accounts for the absence of a female sporting culture in the UK: its competitors are not being presented as fit, healthy role models to inspire women and girls to be active.
A blistering new report from the Commission on the Future of Women's Sport - Big Deal: the case for commercial investment in women's sport - argues for a complete shake-up in the way sponsors and the industry view commercial opportunities presented by women's sport.
The report presents research showing high levels of interest by the public in watching and engaging with top female athletes and contrasts this with the lamentable levels of sponsorship currently being generated.
It also highlights the low levels of TV airtime being devoted to broadcasting women's events and proposes that this mismatch is undermining the growth of women's sport and its corresponding impact on the health of women and girls who are lacking role models and inspiration in taking up sport.
In the foreword, Commission chair, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson says: "Investment in women's sport really matters: it affects elite development, the promotion of female sporting role models and the provision of opportunities at grassroots level; all of which directly impact the health and wellbeing of the nation."
The report shows that between January 2010 and August 2011 women's sport received just 0.5 per cent of all UK sports sponsorship. During the same period, men's sport received 61.1 per cent.
These figures, however, do not tell the true story of what women's sport is really worth according to Big Deal, which argues that commercial investment fails to reflect the value of the market.
Consumer research indicates 64 per cent of the public think "top individual sportswomen are as exciting to watch as top sportsmen" and 61 per cent want "more women's sport on television". The report says "the case for increased investment in women's sport is based not on notions of equality or fairness, but on a sound commercial rationale."
So why are things this way? Big Deal says anecdotally, the reasons for the current situation appear to be historical and the result of inertia and resistance to change in the industry: "All the research shows that the traditional excuses, 'it's always been this way', 'women's sport isn't as good as men's' and 'no one wants to watch it' have no commercial basis and should be consigned to a bygone era."
The report says low levels of commercial investment are undermining the potential for women's sport at a time when 80 per cent of women and girls - half the UK population - aren't playing enough sport or doing enough exercise for it to have a positive benefit on their health. In addition, forecasters believe that in 20 years, the majority of women in the UK will be overweight.
Big Deal says commercial funding creates opportunities for grassroots participation, which feeds the top end of the game and that "lack of investment accounts for the absence of a female sporting culture in the UK: women's sport is not widely promoted and its competitors are not being publicly presented as fit, healthy, sporting role models to inspire women and girls to be physically active."
In highlighting the opportunity, the report says women's sport offers sponsors almost virgin territory with a big up-side in the audiences which can be reached through both traditional and new/social media. It also gives the top 10 reasons why sponsors should invest in women's sport now.
In concluding, it says: "A nation of active women represents a significant health, social and economic prize, both for the nation and for those whose money could make a difference.