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Culture is a set of values and beliefs that represents a group of people. Is what you find at the core of brands’ value when there is a common vision, purpose and way of doing things.
That’s what should remain intact during the current health crisis. An opportunity to engage for clubs who offer something else beyond winning games, and a threat to those whose fans’ loyalty depends on the final score.
“What we miss most is the community”, said COPA90’s global director of the women’s game, Rebecca Smith. The culture surrounding women’s football is what makes it special. Familiar. Worth being proud of.
With sports being locked down for a while, culture is what we have left to entertain, educate and help. The only chance for athletes, clubs and competitions to tell stories that engage in digital with honesty and vulnerability. Since fans are also the primary source of TV rights, sponsorships and matchday revenues, culture should be at the heart of our brand’s and fans’ value.
The financial threat
Yesterday, FIFPro shared their concerns about how the pandemic presents an almost existential threat to the women’s game. Especially, a true risk of “mass unemployment and recessions” unless stakeholders protect the industry. Following FIFPro’s paper, in challenging situations, “attention is where the biggest damage, in this case, the commercial damage. That drives most people’s attention to the men’s game, but the long-term consequences, in terms of the equality and the diversity in the women’s game”.
Women’s teams attached to clubs with men’s teams tend to own a privileged spot on the table due to more resources and less pressure. However, the other side of the coin is that women’s teams also tend to be the first area that gets cut in difficult times. Measures like the 70% wage cut at FC Barcelona can’t be afforded by 98% of the female players. And, transfers, have not represented a significant source of revenue, as less than 4% of the total global transfers in women’s football in 2019 involved a fee, and 86% involved an out-of-contract player.
For example, all of 12 clubs in the fully professional English Barclays FA Women’s Super League are connected to men’s clubs and, according to The New York Times, most of them run at a significant loss. In 2018, Manchester City announced an operating loss of more than £1.2 million on its women’s team, Chelsea registered a total loss of £776,000 and Arsenal held its women’s team loss at £219,000 because of a cash injection of two million pounds.
From culture to profits
And, then, we see Glasgow City FC, with a budget 10 times smaller than top competitors Celtic and Rangers, the Scottish team has achieved to win the last 13 national championships in a row. Under the philosophy of “Championing women and girls since 1998”, the club’s culture is about equality, empowering girls and women and objecting to objectification.
As Glasgow’s general manager and co-founder Laura Montgomery says, “we have had to be better scouts than professional scouts and better marketers than professional marketers”. The results, growing attendances by 200%, selling out Champions League games and commercialising replica jerseys worldwide.
The true value of the most successful Scottish women’s football team of all time is its culture. What their stand for.
Here you have the whole story, told by Laura Montgomery at TEDx Glasgow:
Likewise, Sky Blue FC is doing a great job in building a close, entertaining and human culture during COVID-19, what has led the club to rank among DeporFinanzas’ Top 20 Clubs in Women’s Football with digital interactions. Among many activities, the New Jerseyan club launched community based initiatives to help essential workers and local businesses, live calls among players and season ticket holders, voting for fans to decide new scarfs’ designs or live trivia group meetings. Caring about fans’ challenges to play a meaningful role in their lives.
Doing instead of telling
With sports broadcasters struggling with cuts in advertising and subscription revenues and many season tickets’ holders paying for games they will be unable to attend, how the sports industry will be capable of supporting fans rather than focusing on selling to them will eventually determine what happens next.
Family, health and entertainment is what fans care about right now. And, culture, is what can help clubs resists the financial threat by adding true value to fans and partners in this situation, leading to the inevitable consequence of profits.
The situation is very challenging, but clubs connecting with an engaging culture are proving to become even more relevant when football is on the bench.
Let’s do it.