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 the recent years, brands such as Visa, Barclays, Mastercard or Budweiser have proved women’s football to be 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 for 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 really 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 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 are impressibly averaged 20,098 spectators per game in 2019.
Viewership of international football shows how the interest of the product has significantly grown. The FIFA Women’s World Cup registered 1.12 billion viewers across all platforms in France 2019 and 993.5 million individuals on TV in Canada 2015. The UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 was followed by 4.1 million viewers, 50 million more than Sweden 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 as Spain, France and United States, centralised negotiations have allowed to reach €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 professionalisation and of a huge potential for commercial growth. Investing in undervalued assets and pioneering the sport future have been key to attract brands such as Visa and Mastercard.
According to the report, the annual sponsorship deals averaged below €1M and most of title league sponsorships are usually signed for at least three years. For instance, Barclays’ sponsorship of the English FA WSL was agreed for a period of 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 their women’s team. Pedro Malabia, Women’s Football Director at LaLiga, warned that if Primera Iberdrola were to be cancelled, 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 professionalisation and working conditions is vital to develop an 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 United States and major European leagues the top leading markets.
COVID-19 is forcing women’s football to rethink their value proposition, focusing on building valuable relationships with fans to attract sponsors and showing clear room for improvement in domestic fan attendances. Healthcare, gaming, entertainment, food and insurances are the successful sectors during crisis, bringing opportunities for sponsorship.
Struggling financially but caring about society, luckily women’s football is the best in the latter.