FIFPro, the global representative for professional football players, published Raising Our Game. A report about the global state of women’s football, with recommendations to address the major challenges.
The significant development of the product from the areas of Matchday, Broadcasting, and Commercial leads to foresee a bright future for the women’s game but only if fundamental issues regarding working conditions, leadership roles, and common mindset are taken care of.
In recent years, brands such as Visa, Barclays, Mastercard, and Budweiser have proved women’s football to be a big business opportunity. A chance to become a pioneer in territories such as equality, inclusion, and diversity. However, the lack of data still represents an obstacle to expanding sponsorship.
From a fan perspective, the women’s game generates more curiosity as big crowds attend major events like the UEFA Women’s Euro and the FIFA Women’s World Cup. However, the numbers can’t reflect the true development in Matchday as tournaments are also allocated in strategic countries to build foundations and awareness for women’s football.
At a club level, global attendance has been relatively stagnant due to a lack of effective marketing, coordination of schedules and match times, and distance of venues. While the average attendance in most countries’ top leagues is under 1,000 spectators, Portland Thorns FC impressibly averaged 20,098 spectators per game in 2019.
Viewership of international football shows how the interest in the product has significantly grown. The FIFA Women’s World Cup registered 1.12 billion viewers across all platforms in France in 2019 and 993.5 million individuals on TV in Canada in 2015. The UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 was followed by 4.1 million viewers, 50 million more than Sweden in 2013.
From a club perspective, Southern European top divisions lead the annual broadcasting income with €3M, followed by Western European top divisions with €1.2M and Scandinavian top divisions with €0.58M. In countries such as Spain, France, and the United States, centralized negotiations have allowed reaching €1M in television rights revenue.
Only 30% of federations said they have exclusive sponsors for the women’s team. Together with the lack of data, they are clear signs of early stages of professionalization and huge potential for commercial growth. Investing in undervalued assets and pioneering the future of the sport have been key to attracting brands such as Visa and Mastercard.
According to the report, the annual sponsorship deals averaged below €1M and most title league sponsorships are usually signed for at least three years. For instance, Barclays’ sponsorship of the English FA WSL was agreed upon for three years. The combined deal value of the six partners of the FIFA Women’s World Cup was estimated at USD 11.75 million.
The momentum and clubs’ financials are at serious risk. The English AFC Fylde is the first known club to disband its women’s team. Pedro Malabia, Women’s Football Director at La Liga, warned that if Primera Iberdrola were to be canceled, the broadcasting loss would amount to 600,000€ and the collective agreement could be on the line.
Sarai Bareman, Chief Women’s Football Officer at FIFA, explained that FIFA’s main priority is mitigating the pandemic effects on member associations, offering tailor-made support, and focusing on competitions to build participation and a constructive mindset among stakeholders. From a short-term cost to a long-term investment.
Ensuring the right professionalization and working conditions is vital to develop attractive packaging for fans, brands, and media. On Matchday, Broadcasting, and Sponsorship, women’s football is growing at different speeds but with a global positive trend, being the United States and major European leagues as the top leading markets.
COVID-19 is forcing women’s football to rethink its value proposition, focusing on building valuable relationships with fans to attract sponsors and showing clear room for improvement in domestic fan attendance. Healthcare, gaming, entertainment, food, and insurance are the successful sectors during crises, bringing sponsorship opportunities.
Struggling financially but caring about society, luckily women’s football is the best in the latter.