Women’s football, a “big business” in the making?

The thirteenth edition of the European Football Championship starts on July 6 at Old Trafford in England. Budgets, broadcasting rights, sponsorships, attendance and popularity, the transformation of women’s football is everywhere and at all levels. An economic future for it has yet to be found.

The show that will take place in three weeks between the sixteen best teams in Europe is a further step in the professionalization of women’s football worldwide† At least that of its elite, because it is above all what fills the stadiums, the crowds, the media, attracts the interest of brands … and allows its players to equal bonuses, salaries, infrastructure, image rights or, like Australia, maternity leave before returning to the national team.

The professionalization of royal sport in its female version is as slow as it is disparate and remains a function of cultures, countries and club agendas. But she represents the ultimate step in creating a viable and profitable women’s football economy


millions of euros

Since the 2019 World Cup, the popularity of international women’s football tournaments has been a growing source of income for broadcasters. TF1 received the top three ratings that year, generating over 30 million in ad revenue.

Accounting firm Deloitte predicts a bright future for women’s elite sport with estimated revenues of more than $1 billion in 2021. It’s not all about football, but it’s clearly looming because he’s at the top of the crowd. In the football world, broadcasting rights are the key to the vault† And while it’s too early to judge its economic legacy, the 2019 Women’s World Cup has proved decisive. The tournament almost breweda billion viewers, in addition to the 480 million who watched it via streaming† The final between the United States and the Netherlands alone attracted 260 million people. In France, then host country, TF1 reached the top three audiences of the year with over 10 million viewers, boosting its ad rates by 60% and raising more than €30 million.

Across the Channel, where the Lionesses rank eighth in the world, naming contracts have been renegotiated until £10 million over three seasons from 2019† More cautious at the time of the last World Cup, which it only partially offered on its streaming platform, the RTBF will broadcast all meetings of this Euro live on its Tipik channel. The same goes for our neighbours, where the big media – and the most greedy franchises – are taking over the competition, giving them new, if not expected, credibility, such as the BBC, TVE, TF1/Canal+ (TMC).

The Red Flames, power value

For their second consecutive participation in the European Championship, our Red Flames have the support of media, financial and commercial actors for whom the women’s football gains value in marketing strategies† Main sponsor of the Flames since 2019, ING places the impact of their qualification for the Euro “at the level of popular success” and the “opportunities” offered to its customers. However, there is no question of a revaluation of the sponsor contracts in favor of the players.

The Carrefour group, which has been present together with the Red Flames since 2014, is organizing for the first time a promotion to win tickets for a home game with the purchase of packs of Jupiler and Coca-Cola in particular. In addition to “bringing the fans closer to the players”, the stated aim of this campaign is “to encourage Belgian consumers to adopt a healthy lifestyle”. For those wondering if there is a possible correlation between speech and the choice of alcohol and soft drinks to “promote regular exercise”, the sign explains that any campaign involving the Red Flames must necessarily involve the Federation’s partners. And that “these products (…) also meet the needs of Belgians when they watch a football match”.

The economy of women’s football

“It works economically at the national team level, but not yet at the local level. The budgets for women’s football in Europe are very specific, many of them are linked to the men’s divisions.”

Luc Arrondel

Sports economist, research director at the CNRS.

Would women’s football become “big business”, referring to the famous phrase “Football is a big business” by William McGregor, founder of the English Football League? To understand the challenges, one has to move away from the demagogic, militant attitudes and political correctness that give women’s football values ​​that are supposedly more moral and ethical than mere mortals. And this, even if “history has shown that women’s football is a battleground”recalls Luc Arrondel, sports economist and research director at the CNRS.

“From an economic point of view, it is clear that men’s and women’s football are not” not on the same planet† It’s hard to talk about money in women’s football because there is… few academic studies on the subject and available data are rare and often partial† But it all depends on what we are talking about. It works economically at the national team level, but not yet at the local level. The budgets for women’s football in Europe are very specific, many of them are linked to the men’s divisions.”

What future should women’s football choose? “You have to know what you want. Women’s football remains short, but in England, for example, there has been a real consciousness† The organization of this European Championship has made it possible, since 2016, to draw up a real development and growth plan to restructure women’s football. Their strategy of professionalization goes through the homogenization of the men’s and women’s championships and the aim of doubling the crowds of the stadiums. Clubs are now required to appoint general managers assigned to the women’s section and to pay internationals. The federation did not have many votes, some historic sororities disappeared because they could not meet the specifications

Football has evolved along with the place of women in society and is not immune to major social issues† The wage inequality between male and female players would thus be explained by a twofold socio-historical and economic process. “The marginalization of women by men in the football world in the 20th century is a reality. Today, the job market for footballers and female footballers is incoherent. Men and women don’t apply for the same positions. The size of the pie is different, isn’t it? only for discrimination.”

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