New research shows that accessibility is the biggest barrier to fans watching women’s football, preventing further growth in the sport. 88% of people said they would watch more of the beautiful game if there were more opportunities to do so.
The Collective Think Tank at Wasserman, the global sports, music and marketing agency, conducted the study in collaboration with its partners at the Impulse Network, (Student Initiative at the University of St. Gallen). It surveyed 1,749 people across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia and Switzerland. The results showcased the potential of the sport for partners, sponsors and brands to tap into a commercially valuable market, and therefore benefit the game as a whole.
This opportunity for growth, and therefore opportunities within it, was further reinforced during the pandemic. The research showed a 16% increase in female fans actively playing the game. Meanwhile, of women who weren’t usually interested in football, 19% actually played more during COVID-19. Comparatively, there was only a 15% increase in male fans crossing the white line and taking to the field of play.
Female players are also dropping out of the sport at key points, with the most common reasons cited for leaving the game behind being school/work commitments (48%) and health reasons (22%). Additionally, 41% of leisure players find themselves the only woman on their team.
The research also suggested that, if it wants to drive the grassroots and professional ecosystem forward, women’s football needs to forge the same relationships that are present in the men’s version. The Collective Think Tank found that female fans playing football are more likely to consume football content (64%) compared to female fans who rarely play (6%).
Anna Afolabi, co-author and Integrated Strategist at Wasserman commented on the research, stating: “We’ve known about the potential in women’s football for some time. This research, while it highlights the challenges the sport faces, also shows that there are so many opportunities for growth. But it is important that brands, sponsors and partners don’t just sit and wait for this interest to increase further. Instead, they should be seen as enablers.”
Ebru Koksal of the Professional Footballers’ Association and Chair of Women in Football comments: “When women stop playing football, they often stop watching football too. We need to remove the barriers to their participation in order to stop women drifting away from the game all altogether.”