Monday, March 27, 2023

Women’s Football In A Boom – Can The Finances Keep Up?

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With 29 million women and girls playing football worldwide, according to Fifa’s official statistics, Women’s football has never been more popular. The upcoming UEFA Women’s Euros will undoubtedly rekindle speculation on the crucial topic of sponsorship for the sport and whether it can keep up with the rapid growth the game is enjoying.

Women’s soccer is undoubtedly attracting more interest and funds from sponsors as a result of its increased popularity. But historically, women’s football has been neglected by fans fixated on the men’s game and has suffered the consequences, which resulted in a lack of professionalism, low levels of participation and general disinterest from fans and sponsors alike.

The introduction and promotion of the FA Women’s Premier League in 1994 by the Football Association was a step towards tackling the problem, but it took the Americans to really get the ball rolling. It was the successful USA Women’s World Cup of 1999 and the resulting creation of the first women’s professional soccer league that really sparked the conversation on the topic of funding, although sadly, the league itself failed as a result of a lack of sponsorship.

The fact is, there are still huge gaps between the Men’s and Women’s leagues. While a top English Premier League (EPL) player can truly be said to have hit the jackpot, with earnings running into the millions per year, the maximum salary in the FA Women’s Super League (WSL) is only around  £210,000. To put that into perspective, people have been known to win 10 times more from jackpots playing slots games online.

While cynics argue that this is because Women’s football can never possibly match the level of the Men’s game, and will, therefore, never draw the same crowds, this is not actually the case. Back in 1920, 53,000 fans attended a match at Goodison Park between Dick, Kerr’s Ladies and S. Helens. Women’s teams like these had sprung into existence during the First World War and didn’t decline in popularity after the Armistice. So the FA reacted to this success according to the misogynistic principles of the day and declared football a sport unsuitable for the fair sex” and banned them from professional participation. A ban that was to remain in place until 1971.

Research has also shown that when sports fans are shown both female and male matches, they judge the male player’s skills as higher. But when the same games are shown with the sexes of the players blurred, there is no perceived disparity between the skill levels of the participants.

What all this means is that despite the commonly perceived view, Women’s football provides just as exciting a spectacle as Men’s football. Fans have already coped themselves on to this fact, and when the sponsors also catch up to reality, we’ll see a boom in quality footie on our screens. Until then, Women’s Football will struggle with underfunding, which is actually a good thing for the fans, as it remains the preserve of athletes dedicated to their sport, rather than their egos and paychecks, as is too often the case with EPL players.

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