The world of football has undergone a fairly radical transformation over the last few years. While women have been legally allowed to play on professional English grounds since the 1970s, it isn’t until very recently that the women’s version of the sport has gotten the attention and funding that it deserves.
Helping to drive this change are major international tournaments like the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The last version of the tournament, in 2019, saw viewing figures climb to 28 million – and this time around, in 2023, that record looks set to be broken.
So, what sort of impact is this having on the women’s game more broadly?
A survey by Opinium has revealed a shift in attitudes toward women’s sports in general. Around a fifth of female respondents claimed that media coverage of women’s sports made them more inclined to try the new sport for themselves. Nearly half of male respondents said that coverage gave them a greater respect for the women’s version of the game.
It is hoped that this will create a virtuous cycle. As more young women can watch the game, they will be more likely to play it – and to a high standard. This will help to drive the quality of the product on display, and allow the sport to fulfil its potential.
Numbers are speaking for themselves
We can see the progress of the women’s game reflected in every metric, from viewing figures to replica shirt sales.
Even before a ball was kicked, the tournament in Australia and New Zealand has broken records. The previous record was set eight years ago in Canada, which would seem to indicate that the trajectory is upward over the long term. We should consider that the 2019 tournament in France was disadvantaged by smaller stadia. If more people had been able to attend, then the chances are good that it, too, would have set a record.
For the final, in the Olympic Stadium in Homebush, more than seventy-thousand fans are expected to be in attendance. However, few fans are travelling from outside of the country to spectate.
The success of the Women’s World Cup is being leveraged by the Australian authorities as a means of promoting not just women’s football, but sport in general. This is being set out in a framework called the ‘Winning Playbook’, which aims to examine exactly how further progress can be made in other areas of women’s sport. New South Wales Minister for Sport, Steve Kamper, said that: “the NSW Government is also committed to ensuring it leaves a positive legacy for women and girls through sport and that’s what The Winning Playbook is aiming to achieve today.”