Women’s World Cup Trigger For Participation Boom

Despite England Women’s football team finishing fourth at this year’s World Cup their performances throughout the tournament are expected to help grow the number of female players in the game by around 7% to more than c. 200,000 in 2019 according to new research from Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.


Currently, 187,400 women aged 16 years-old and over play the sport at least twice a month, according to Sport England’s Active Lives Survey. As a result, by the end of 2019 around one in 10 of the 2,095,900 people playing football at least twice a month in England will be women.


Enthusiasm for the game is expected to continue well beyond the end of this year’s World Cup tournament. Deloitte’s Sports Business Group estimates that the number of women playing football regularly in 2023, the year of the next Women’s World Cup, will grow to at least c. 227,500, an increase of 21% from 2018.


Izzy Wray, consultant in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, commented: “The number of records smashed at this year’s tournament both on and off the pitch has been sensational, with more people in Britain tuning in to watch the Lionesses take on Norway in the semi-final than any other programme this year.


“It’s inevitable that excitement for the team’s success will encourage more women and girls to take up the sport and it’s promising that the number of brands investing in the game is continuing to grow.”


Previous research from Deloitte’s Sports Business Group has highlighted the commercial potential for the sport. Just three-fifths (60%) of top flight women’s football clubs globally have front-of-shirt sponsors that are different to the men’s equivalent.


As clubs, rights holders and potential commercial partners recognise the financial benefits of ‘unbundling’ sponsorship deals for women’s teams, Deloitte expects that the proportion of women’s teams with distinct main sponsors will rise to 100% in time for the 2023 World Cup.


Currently, 64% of England’s FA Women’s Super League has the same front-of-shirt sponsor as the club’s men’s equivalent team, with only four clubs having a different main shirt sponsor for their women’s team.


Wray concluded: “The players have done their bit on the pitch, but now the time has come for rights holders and brands to shape the future of women’s football by building the competition structure, governance, media rights and sponsorship strategy to allow the sport to flourish at both amateur and professional levels. To maximise this opportunity, there needs to be a clear vision of how the game should develop.


“Women’s professional football is in its early stages of development and through learning from the experiences of men’s football and other sports, and by working together, brands, teams and individual players have an opportunity to shape its future trajectory. Football now has the opportunity to become the world’s leading professional women’s sport.”


Image: PA Images