Digital Sport London: The importance of choosing the right path to grow women’s football

The Women’s World Cup is underway and is getting great media coverage. From the stellar viewing figures the BBC generated for England’s victory over Scotland to controversies caused by the USA players and their unrestrained joy at scoring goals number 11 and 12 in a 13-0 win over Thailand.

But what happens after the World Cup finishes?

The last few months have offered us a glimpse at what might be in store, with the likes of Visa, Mastercard, Barclays and Boots investing heavily in women’s football in an unprecedented flurry of deals into the sport.

The clubs and leagues who are attracting these massive names are also upping their game to ensure their women’s competitions are best served. There’s a trend towards splitting up sponsorship packages so that brands can choose to sponsor a women’s team or competition independently from the men’s, meaning those who want to support women’s sport can do so exclusively.

So there’s growth happening commercially, and a clear will in some quarters to making progress.

But on 11th July, at Digital Sport London, we’ll be asking what happens next. After the glow of the World Cup fades and attention goes back to the club game, will the raised profile of the players currently competing in France be enough to persuade fans to watch more regular season club games come the autumn?

There are some lessons to be learned from rugby, for example. After the Six Nations or the World Cup ends, many fans who were engaged for a few weeks disappear when the clubs come back: somehow it’s just easier to follow a national team in this case.

For women’s football, it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the game capitalises on the coverage and interest in this World Cup. It feels as though this is big from an awareness point of view: if the general public can generate an affinity with the players at this tournament, who’s to say that can’t be transferred over into the club game?

The point is, the momentum and interest generated around the Women’s World Cup isn’t enough for the sports industry to pat itself on the back for a job well done. The real work has to start after the tournament when the lull begins and people start to look elsewhere.

What can we do to persuade them to continue to watch? And how can we attract more investment and showcase the game as a great opportunity for brands to get involved rather than a moral good?

Beyond that, though, is it possible that we get stuck in the weeds of commercial growth, investment and sponsorship? Is there a wider point about grassroots involvement and inspiring women and girls to take up sport and get active that we’re in danger of missing if we’re too focused on packaging the product?

It feels like women’s football is on the verge of a breakthrough into the national consciousness, but the path we take now will have consequences further down the line – so what’s the best way forward? Join us in July to talk about it!

See Twitter, Visa, Endeavor, Engine Sports and the Football Writers’ Association talk about next steps for the women’s football. Where should we be with the game and how do we get there? Join the conversation on July 11th at the offices of Howard Kennedy LLP.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 836 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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