By: Izzy Wray
This year has been one to remember for women’s football, with further significant growth in the women’s game, including a £30m sponsorship deal announced for the FA Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship, marking a new record for investment in women’s sport in the UK.
More broadly beyond the UK, according to Deloitte’s analysis, 19 of the top 20 revenue generating clubs in world football now have a women’s team.
Alongside rising investment, audience numbers for women’s games have climbed. This month’s 2020-21 Women’s FA Cup final attracted 1.3m viewers on BBC television, with an additional 200,000 fans watching the game live in the stands or on streaming platforms.
Big Sport Quiz of 2021: How much do you remember?
The value in the women’s game is increasingly clear. Clubs are building momentum in professionalising women’s teams as women’s football becomes increasingly embedded into clubs’ growth and financial strategies.
While stakeholders in the game strive to increase professionalisation, boost opportunities for participation and improve player welfare, a number of factors continue to drag at the heels of the women’s game, however.
This is prevalent across the globe, where many women’s leagues hold only amateur or low-wage, semi-professional status, coupled with a lack of regulation.
Care is also needed as women’s leagues are growing in size; the English Women’s Super League, Chinese Women’s Super League and Spanish Primera Division have all announced plans to incorporate additional teams.
On the one hand, these are positive signs and are in response to growing TV audiences and fan bases. However, there is also the risk that weaker teams could unbalance the league, creating stale, one-sided matches and reducing the excitement.
Clubs will need to consider the scale and nature of the support they offer to women’s teams. There is a need to balance sharing the benefits from growth in the men’s game, while at the same time enabling women’s teams to define their own identity and achieve their own targets.
From an organisational perspective, Fifa has restructured commercially into three verticals – women’s football, men’s football, and esports and gaming.
This is providing brands that want to support women’s sport with direct access to Fifa women’s broadcasting rights, including the women’s World Cup. These structural improvements to the women’s game will play a crucial role in its development.
Women’s football has tremendous potential. There is widespread understanding across the industry that growing professionalism and league sizes in the women’s game will help to generate wider interest, TV audiences and attendances.
The Women’s European Championship in England next summer represents a significant opportunity to grow the women’s and girls’ game and raise the profile of the Lionesses. Promisingly, we’ve already seen big increases in TV rights deals for this competition.
In 2022 we’ll likely see attendance records for women’s games smashed once again. This will contribute to the wider continued growth of women’s sport, which we believe will be worth more than $1bn in the years ahead.
Izzy Wray in an Assistant Director in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.
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By: Izzy Wray