Farrer & Co Women in Sport - Report - Page 26
A time of opportunity
This is a critical time in the commercial
trajectory of women’s sports.
Team GB Rugby 7’s athlete Emily Scarratt pictured in Adidas Team GB Rio 2016 Olympic kit.
Words by Owen O’Rorke
The coverage and success of recent
tournaments has captured the public
imagination, and failure to capitalise
on this could set back the commercial
prospects for another four years
At the same time, some women’s
sports find themselves at a crossroads
where they have to decide what their
own brand, as distinct from the men’s
game is, if they are to maximise
In certain fields, namely tennis and
athletics, individual achievement has
always been celebrated by the media
and public, regardless of gender, even
if earnings and sponsorship deals are
still failing to reflect that potential.
For some team sports, like netball and,
to an extent, hockey, there is already
a distinct identity to the women’s game.
However, these sports have limited
resources for investment compared
to sports where women’s clubs are
partly subsidised by the men’s game:
one thinks immediately of football,
cricket and, to an extent, rugby, where
women’s clubs share facilities and
sometimes, even names with strong
existing brands. The issue that the latter
sports face, then, is to ensure that the
women’s game has its own clear
identity that will appeal to sponsors.
It starts with the product, of course,
and investment triggers a virtuous circle
whereby, as the game improves both
technically and as a spectacle, the
media and broadcast coverage carry it
forward – ideally led by success on the
field. Then, rights holders begin to have
more choice in terms of commercial
partners, leading to greater revenues
and more investment.
Summer 2019 has created a huge
opportunity in football. At the 2015 FIFA
Women’s World Cup, peak television
viewing figures for an England game
reached four million whereas just four
years later, that number had almost
tripled to 11.7 million for the semi-final.
While one includes online and mobile
devices, increasingly the most important
metric, some 28.1 million (or 47% of the
UK population) watched the BBC
coverage of the tournament. The gender
split showed a rough 60-40 balance
between male and female viewers, which
is both interesting and encouraging.
Women in Sport – Levelling the playing field