Inspiring Glasgow woman Claire Nelson reveals pride after being named Gamechanger in Sport at National Awards

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Nelson is determined to continue driving change for women in Sport

Netball Scotland and Strathclyde Sirens chief executive Claire Nelson expressed gratitude towards her ‘incredible team’ after being honoured with the Gamechanger in Sport award at last week’s inaugural Great British Businesswoman Awards.

Hosted by Wynne Evans and Carol Vorderman, the virtual event saw 122 women recognised for their contributions across a range of categories from construction and creative industries through to engineering, finance and diversity.

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Judged by a panel of experts, Nelson fought off stiff competition to take the title after being hailed as one of the most impactful leaders in UK women’s sport having campaigned for gender equality in sport.

The 40-year-old mother of four generated positive media coverage on International Women’s Day with her #HeadlinesNotSidelines initiative and sat on the Scottish Government’s Women and Girls in Sport Advisory Group, among many other impressive achievements.

“It was a surprise that I won,” Nelson declared. “I wasn’t actually aware that the awards were taking place because it’s been so busy recently. It just popped up as a notification on my phone.

“It’s nice to get nominated for awards and it’s always special to win them. It’s great for your profile and to be able to give you a platform to talk about what you do.

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“This one felt particularly special because it’s about being a game changer in women’s sport and that’s why I left the industry I was previously in to come in to do this.

“My USP is built on bringing the business and commercial side to women’s sport and harnessing that to drive for change. I always knew there was untapped potential there.

“To get recognition for that work after the year we’ve all had felt pretty special. The impact of COVID particularly on women’s sport and ours being an indoor team contact has been tough, but we have emerged through that.

“I only won because of the people around me, it’s a collective team effort. We have a hashtag in our business called #succeedasateam.

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“I am a very impassioned visionary leader, an ambassador and spokesperson for what I do, but I always say a great leader is only that because of the team around them and I have an absolutely incredible team.

“I’ve added real talent to it over the last year or so and it’s not just my operational staff; what the players did this year was absolutely incredible, our membership who stay connected, every partner and stakeholder that invests in us, it really is a team effort. That’s why we’ve got such a bright, exciting dynamic future as a sport.”

Nelson is now embarking on the launch of a charitable foundation with the Sirens to improve lives and reduce inequalities.

She said: “We are about to start executing a significant growth strategy, looking at facilities, at events and really building our Sirens brand.

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“It’s not just about people playing netball, it’s about how we can fix the broken system for women in sport, and how we can use our platform and harness that passionate power of sport to really improve health and wellbeing particularly around young females.

“Every day I’m bombarded with stories of girls with low self-esteem and anxiety and that is when these girls then become women, which means we’re not changing the system to make things better and fairer for the future. So that’s our side drive and our mission and that’s what we’re really pushing forwards on now.”

Strathclyde Sirens are currently competing in the UK-wide Vitality Netball Superleague, often televised on Sky Sports, and play their home games at the Emirates Arena.

The sport, which requires high-intensity running, fast decision-making and skilful ball handling, was one of four Scottish sports to share a £1million Scottish Government grant earlier this year to offset the absence of crowds income during the Coronavirus pandemic.

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Nelson has been proud of the way the team has grown in stature and is hopeful they will continue to receive more recognition for their achievements.

She admitted: “We are Scotland’s biggest club that you’ve never heard of and that is what has emerged this year in terms of some of our successes and some of the work that I’ve done around changing the game.

“We were competing in the Superleague last year and had a fantastic first home game with Judy Murray and several politicians attending.

“We also had our biggest ever sell-out crowd and a great victory before everything was shut down because of COVID, so in order to continue as a sport, we worked with Sky this year and took every single game behind closed doors.

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“Half of the season was in Wakefield, half of it was in London at the Copper Box Arena and our athletes travelled week in, week out in the middle of lockdown with restrictions in place.

“Many of them have other jobs and really sacrificed a lot to go and compete. We started winning and were the underdogs that no one was expecting and then we went viral on TikTok.

“Everyone was talking about us, our sport, our team, except the media who weren’t covering us. There was nothing else going on in sport and here is this team performing.

“We were determined to do something about it. We worked with a PR agency and really went out there to understand why we weren’t getting coverage, but more importantly how we could get coverage and it really drove this huge campaign that increased visibility and coverage of our team.

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“We became the most talked about uncovered women’s sports team in the UK. What we do is try to leverage that to then start using our platform to talk about mental health, we talk about women’s health.

“We really want to tackle the issues and be part of driving that change and that’s what I’m most passionate about.

“Going into this new season, because of those successes, we’re bringing new partners on board, we are continuing to use our platform to have those important conversations. We try to influence a national level around health and wellbeing agenda.

“No one else is doing anything close to this in women’s sport in Scotland and we’re really proud of that, but we feel like we’re just getting started.

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“Interestingly, it’s been the COVID year and the impact of the pandemic that’s really helped us get a spotlight shone on us and what we’re doing.”

Nelson confirmed there is more exciting news in the offing with interested followers told to watch out for upcoming developments at

The awards ceremony was streamed live online with hundreds of viewers tuning in, which Francesca James of the Great British Businesswoman Awards believes reflected the desire for a greater focus on role models in business.

She stated: “It was great to hear so many stories of how women are making their mark in various business sectors across the UK.

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“Despite it being 2021, there are still many obstacles facing women, particularly in the senior roles in business, whether that is in funding, salary or corporate representation.

“I hope that the success of events like this signals a turning point where more women feel comfortable talking about the barriers they face in business, and hopefully, this will lead to more equality across the working world.

“We’re proud to have hosted our inaugural awards, and hope that next year will be even bigger and better, meaning we can continue to share the stories of such inspirational women, across the UK and beyond.”

*The Great British Businesswoman Series (GBBS) is a collective of industry experts seeking to educate and campaign for recognition and better opportunities for women in business. The awards ceremony intend to acknowledge the persistent challenges for women in business and tackle inequality by inspiring the next wave of women entrepreneurs to take action through the stories of success told of the shortlisted nominees.

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