We were pleased to be among an audience of 200 sports marketing and football professionals in London yesterday for an important event on ‘The Future of Women’s Football’ hosted by our friends at Sheridans Solicitors.
Against the backdrop of England’s 6-1 win over China at the FIFA Women’s World Cup the mood was positive. The game in England surged on the back of the home triumph in the 2021 (held in 2022) Euro’s and the TV deal to allow for shared coverage of the Women’s Super League across the BBC as well as Sky.
This wider access meant that more people were watching the Arsenal Women’s Team last year than the Men’s and a sold out Emirates Stadium for the Champions League semi-final was a hard data indicator that the game has crossed the rubicon in terms of popular appeal.
The benefits run deeper as well with Southampton in the Championship talking yesterday of their partnership with Starling Bank, grown out of their own involvement with the Euro’s.
62 per cent of those that attended their games last season had never been to a football match before, proving that the Women’s game is attracting a new audience, nit just giving another opportunity to traditional fans of the men’s team.
We have seen the same in Ireland with the fan bases of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, off the back of major tournament qualification seeing new audiences opening up to the sport.
The Raising the Bar report into the game post-Euros was discussed by Jane Purdon of Women in Football and by Lucy Sanga, the Women’s Sport Lead at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
We spoke to Sanga afterwards about the importance of having such a single focus to continue advocating for Women’s Sport and she highlighted that the role was a new one itself but that it was important in providing the resource to develop change and a conduit for keeping sport and politics focused on the importance of equality across the sector.
Our own Department in Dublin is very focused on the same but wouldn’t that be a great statement to have a specific official named with the same responsibility for leading on Women’s Sport.
We got a players perspective from Chelsea and Scotland star Erin Cuthbert and also heard some important thoughts on the value and importance of recognising the Women’s game as a specific and important strategic and commercial pillar from Shane Campbell, the Head of Strategy, Commercial Sponsorships and Partnerships at Manchester United.
Plenty of food for thought as we build out the agenda for our 2023 Women in Sport Conference to be held in November, in partnership again with our friends at Lidl.
It was an important learning forum as the work begins now on ensuring a legacy impact from the national sides advances and how we can roll that into a stronger domestic game and a proper development pathway for young players.
There remains a long way to go though. The English Professional men’s game has invested an estimated £2 Billion in youth player development over the past two decades, and even though the England team won the Euro’s last year, the equivalent in the Women’s game has been substantially less than one per cent of that amount.