Judy Murray believes Wimbledon should consider scrapping the rule that forces female players to wear white clothing as part of the competition’s dress code.
Speaking at a female leadership event ahead of the Billie Jean Cup Finals in Glasgow, the former Fed Cup captain said the conversation around menstruation and sport was becoming ‘more of an open talking point’ — and she urged decision-makers at SW19 to look seriously at a change of uniform rules, allowing female players the right to wear coloured underwear or shorts.
In an exclusive interview with Sportsmail, Olympic swimmer Hannah Miley spoke candidly about the affects of periods on her health and on sportswomen in general.
And Dr Sarah Zipp, the founder of Power to Play, Period and a leading researcher on sport, gender and menstrual health, has told Sportsmail there needs to be more discussion and education on the issue, saying: ‘If you look at Wimbledon, it is a nightmare for anyone on their period — not only due to the requirement for players to wear white, but because there are limited bathroom breaks allowed.’
Murray, who is one of the most influential female voices in modern sport, said: ‘One of the biggest problems previously in sport was that it was always white shorts, white kit and so on in lots of different sports. Everything was white. Nearly all sports have moved over to colour now.
‘I think it’s certainly a much more open talking point, but it would probably need more of the players to speak out openly about the trauma it can cause you, if you are wearing all white and then possibly have a leak while you’re playing. I cannot think of a much more traumatic experience than that.
‘When all matches are televised and streamed now, it is something that needs to be considered. It’s one of those things, when something like that becomes a talking point, decisions have to be made on it. However it’s really important, too, that we have lots of women on the decision-making panel, because they understand what that’s like to have menstrual cycles and they understand the fear of that happening while playing.’
The all-white dress code has been in place at Wimbledon for generations. Traditionally, it started as a way of covering up ‘unsightly’ sweat. When women began playing, they did so in long skirts, so the potential for blood being visible was likely to be less of an issue.
In 2022 however, there is more of a spotlight than ever on the elite game.
‘As well as the TV coverage and the streamed events, everyone in the crowd has cameras,’ said Murray. ‘It’s a tricky one because Wimbledon is so full of tradition – and breaking those traditions is going to take someone quite brave to do that. But it’s the female players themselves who could put pressure on that to happen.
‘The whole planning around competitions is really important. Your hormones can go to pot with your period in the run-up to, during or after an event, and if you’re trying to peak for a major event there are many athletes who will adjust their contraceptives to make sure they don’t have their periods.
‘It’s difficult with tennis because it’s literally 11 months of the year. It’s another reason why female athletes should have a female medical adviser on their team – to ensure they are getting the right advice for their body and for their sport.
‘We need more females in the workforce: not just coaches or those delivering tennis in schools – we need them in all areas, women who really understand women’s bodies.’
When contacted, the All England Club told Sportsmail: ‘Prioritising women’s health and supporting players based on their individual needs is very important to us and we are in discussions with the WTA, with manufacturers and with the medical teams about the ways in which we can do that.’
For Murray meanwhile, educating and empowering a female workforce is massively important. She believes that developing more female coaches, who can understand their players’ concerns, is vital.
‘We have such a small female workforce in Scottish tennis,’ she continued. ‘Today, at Mount Vernon Primary, I wanted to do something about developing leadership skills in young women and girls within the East End of Glasgow, something around a tennis environment.
‘We have an opportunity in Mount Vernon because there’s a club right around the corner, three newly-refurbished courts in the park close by, just down the road. So we have a public park, a little tennis club and you’ve got a high school with 16 female sports leaders, which is an uncommonly big number. They are desperate to have opportunities in work experience to work with young people in primary schools, so I thought: “We can capture that and have the sports leaders working with the p6s and p7s”.
‘We are developing leadership skills with them to develop lunchtime clubs with the p3s and p4s. It’s little girls being with big girls and they love that. These little girls are not threatened in terms of not being scared to always get things right. So long as they’re having fun is the main thing.
‘In one morning we have started a network that will support the new course in the park that will deliver tennis in a safe environment for the children and it’s a short walk from the tennis club. It’s the community thing – we need to bring everyone together and look at how do we collectively do it.
Because, if it starts to rely on just one person, you never really get that far. With a big group of people you can achieve something.’
As well as opening up the game to the local community, she sees the upcoming Billie Jean King Cup as a huge ‘opportunity to have the world’s best female players on our doorstep’.
‘To have all 12 teams is amazing,’ said Murray. ‘I think there’s always a chance to create a lot of interest in the game and to extend that out, like we were trying to do today.’
The Lawn Tennis Association hope the Billie Jean Cup Finals increases the visibility of women’s tennis in Scotland and across Britain and encourages the next generation to pick up a racquet.
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Looking forward to updates💎🤤