MAGGIE PAGANO: Abundant game of women
- VoucherCodes.co.uk reckons there will be a £185m boost to the economy
- Around 11 million are expected to stay at home to watch the final and another 3 million go to a pub.
- Experts predict the women’s football market could be worth a billion pounds over the next decade
Whether the Lionesses win or lose against Spain tomorrow, and of course they will, women’s football in England and the rest of the UK is undergoing the most spectacular transformation, defying even the most die-hard sceptics.
Seven million fans in the UK watched the semi-final against Australia.
Double is expected to tune in to the final at Sydney’s Stadium Australia, the first time an England soccer team has played in a World Cup final since 1966 when Germany were defeated.
It’s a long time to wait for a replay, but you can trust the England fans to be prepared – and in style. Waitrose is stocking up on extra bacon, eggs, sausages and indeed English sodas ready for the celebration. Website searches for brunch food increased 54 percent.
It’s a much-needed boost to a bleak summer for retail sales. VoucherCodes.co.uk estimates there will be a £185m boost to the economy. Around 11 million are expected to stay at home to watch the final and a further 3 million will go to a pub or bar, helping to boost the hospitality sector. As it’s a little early for drinking – kick-off is at 11am – most of the spending will go towards teas and coffees, although a few goals from Lauren Hemp will soon put an end to that puritanism.
Spectacular transformation: seven million fans in the UK watched the semi-final against Australia
However, this pales in comparison to the potential size of the UK women’s football market. If the sport continues to grow at its current rate, experts predict the market will easily be worth £1 billion over the next decade through a combination of commercial deals, sponsorship and broadcasting. Compare that to the total value of all women’s sports for 2021 of $1 billion, and you can see how big the UK’s home market could be.
Skeptical observers like to say that the only reason there has been so much fuss about women’s football is because the Lionesses are on such a winning streak, having won the Euro Cup against Germany last year. Once the excitement dies down, the game will fold.
However, that is not the case at all. Quite the opposite. Deloitte’s annual soccer review shows that between 2021 and 2022, broadcast revenue (known as bundle packages when sponsors pay to have their brands featured on a club’s men’s and women’s team jerseys) and other Trade agreements grew by 60 percent.
Barclays has tripled what it pays to sponsor the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championships. You are now shelling out £30m over three years, whereas before you were paying £10m over three years.
Baby clothing company Joie recently signed a partnership with the Manchester City women’s team etc. Broadcast revenue is also picking up with the WSL and WC recently signing an £8m annual deal with Sky and the BBC, the highest of any professional soccer league in the world.
Players are also earning more. Combined salaries across the 12 WSL clubs were £25 million, up 37 per cent from the previous season. More importantly, attendance at WSL and WC matches has skyrocketed by 200 percent.
What’s also surprising is that attendance is split fairly evenly between women and men, despite the widespread attitude that the women’s game isn’t nearly as exciting as the men’s.
I thought so too until my son recently dragged me to a women’s game between Chelsea and Tottenham, and how wrong I was. What was also encouraging to see was the large number of families that were going together. Ticket prices at £10 a shot are kept low to attract more fans, and that’s a good thing too.
But despite this big jump in attendance, the average number of fans attending matches is still just 5,600 per game, compared to 50,000 for men’s matches.
Deloitte’s Amy Clarke, who specializes in women’s soccer, reckons that as the game becomes more professional, attendance will grow rapidly.
It’s a bit like the chicken and egg situation, as one of the drawbacks that women’s teams face is the lack of infrastructure, and there is a need for more investment in the clubs.
However, that too is changing, and fast. At the perfect time, tech entrepreneur Victoire Cogevina Reynal this week launched a $100 million fund aimed at buying majority stakes in women’s soccer clubs in Europe and Latin America. Named Mercury 13 after female pilots who were not allowed to join NASA’s astronaut program because of their gender, Reynal is said to be more interested in seeking out English clubs first.
She clearly has an eye for a winner.