Coronavirus: Women's professional sport returns amid warnings 'years of progress' could be undone

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry

Professional women's sports events finally returned on Thursday, amid warnings the pandemic risks undoing years of progress.

The Women's British Open marks the first time elite female sporting competitions have returned to television since coronavirus interrupted play.

It comes as MPs have accused the government of neglecting women's sport during lockdown.

England players celebrate as India players look dejected before receiving their medals during the ICC Women's World Cup Final 2017.. Credit: PA

A report warns the lack of visibility in summer 2020 risks reducing funding and participation across the industry.

Unlike the men's game, no elite women's football has been played in England since March.

Huge efforts were made for the Premier League to resume, but the Women's Super League did not return after Covid-19 halted play.

Bristol City Women are one of the teams who were hit by the long period without play.

The Vitality Women’s FA Cup will be halted as it's not considered an 'elite sport'. Credit: PA

Coach Loren Dykes said: "We definitely need more income and more finances - more support and investment".

But the Lionesses' new head coach, Sarina Wiegman, told ITV News there is reason for optimism.

She said "we are beyond the stage" of women's sport being hit beyond recovery, and added: "Women's sport will still grow."

Indeed Dame Heather Rabbatts, who's involved in negotiating broadcast deals for women's sport, says the pandemic could have some positive outcomes.

"This is a first time opportunity for many of the women's sports to gain a media rights position in the marketplace," she told ITV News.

Adding: "I do think there is hope for the future".