Women’s football that roars
Growing investment in women’s football is helping to transform the game. Deloitte’s Sports Business Group is supporting FIFA’s work to help build financial sustainability in women’s football and bring the game to more pitches, stadiums and fans around the world.
They say if you can see it, you can be it. And since the Lionesses’ historic win and the soaring growth of the Women’s Super League (WSL), women’s football has never been so popular in the UK.
There has been an explosion of interest from a new audience in the game, and greater visibility of the female stars has made players past and present into household names.
It’s too soon to quantify the scale of this impact on society, but it’s fair to say that the women’s game has achieved something incredible. For lots of young girls and women, trying the sport out for themselves – or even becoming a professional footballer, coach or manager – feels like a much more attainable goal.
“The women’s game is the single biggest growth opportunity in football today. The challenge now is to sustain momentum in driving the success of women’s clubs and leagues.”
Success has also transferred to the ticket office, where it’s easier to measure. Since July 2022, the average number of attendees for the Women’s Super League has increased by almost 200 per cent.
With so much to gain from growing the women’s game, from inclusion to health benefits and international renown, FIFA is on a mission to help the sport reach its full potential on a global scale. Demonstrating its progress and potential with data is crucial to this growth.
Opportunities for women in sport
Deloitte’s Sports Business Group has made supporting women’s football – and women’s sport in general – a big priority.
“The growth of women’s football is drawing a new generation of investors, fans and players to sport,” says the Group’s lead partner, Tim Bridge, “and we’re already feeling the effects of this in the industry. For example in 2023 we’ve seen the formation of the first woman-owned, women-led, multi-club ownership model in football, which allows the organisations to centralise best practices in training, scouting, data analytics and more across these clubs.
“Moving society forward isn’t just about challenging old ideas – it’s about supporting new ones,” Tim continues.
“Businesses like ours have a big role to play. More opportunities for women in sport means more female role models and greater gender equality for sport in the long term.”
For Sarai Bareman, chief women’s football officer for FIFA, the commercial opportunity offered by women’s clubs and leagues is clear to see.
“The women’s game is the single biggest growth opportunity in football today,” says Sarai. “The challenge now is to sustain momentum in driving the success of women’s clubs and leagues.”
That’s where the data comes in. In sport, it’s a non-negotiable element needed to track success in every area, from individual player performance to fan engagement and commercial returns.
In October 2022, FIFA published the second annual Women’s Football Benchmarking Report ‘Setting the Pace’, with support from Deloitte. From governance and finances to fans and players, it gives a snapshot of all significant benchmarks of the global game.
“We spoke to key stakeholders across 30 leagues and 294 clubs to assess what factors drive success for women’s football globally, making sure the research encompassed the full women’s football landscape,” says Tim.
The data gathered shows the leaps women’s football made over the course of the year. 90 per cent of leagues surveyed had a written strategy for the women’s game, up from 79 per cent in 2021, while 77 per cent had a title sponsor, up 11 per cent from 2021.
A virtuous circle
“We often speak about the virtuous circle in women’s sport,” says Tim. “The concept that by building new investment in club infrastructure, you in turn grow player wages, grassroot initiatives and more.”
“The data shows this circle is beginning to turn in women’s football. The social, physical and economic benefits that this could bring to women and girls around the world has the potential to be game changing.”
By giving clubs and leagues around the world access to the report’s findings, FIFA is empowering every women’s football strategy with up-to-date analysis and data, putting clubs in a good position to attract new investment and encourage more women and girls onto the pitch.
“Using data, we can clearly highlight the growth of women’s clubs and leagues and the return that organisations investing in women’s football are receiving,” Sarai continues.
Specifically, it’s hoped that understanding the key ingredients for success in women’s football clubs has the potential to improve financial sustainability for the game and women’s sport more generally. And that, as data continues to build, so will the popularity of the women’s game.
“There’s so much left to be achieved in women’s football,” Sarai concludes. “By continuing to share expertise and best practice between women’s clubs and leagues internationally, we can ensure that the game continues to thrive across every corner of the world.”
“The growth of women’s football is drawing a new generation of investors, fans and players to sport, and we’re already feeling the effects of this in the industry. Moving society forward isn’t just about challenging old ideas – it’s about supporting new ones.”