UEFA women’s football to the fore



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Outlook for the business for women’s football in Europe Image: UEFA

‘The Business Case for Women’s Football’ (UEFA Women’s Football) is a very ambitious project that has been developed in partnership with representatives from all football stakeholders, including national associations, leagues, the European Club Association, clubs, broadcasters, sponsors, fans, and academic institutions.

‘UEFA’ stated that the growth and further professionalization of women’s football in Europe holds extraordinary opportunities for the sport as well as for the game’s partners and the society as a whole.

Fulfilling this ambition requires further investment from all the sport’s stakeholders, including the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), national associations, leagues, and clubs.

This groundbreaking report, which is based on an unprecedented range of research and data, provides a business case for increasing investment in women’s football so that the game can develop, professionalize and reach its full potential. Focusing primarily on the club and league game, it gives a clear understanding of the sport’s value, outlines the benefits that increased investment can bring and offers guidance on how to maximize return on this investment.

Nyon (Switzerland)-based the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is one of six continental bodies of governance in association football. It governs football, futsal and beach soccer in Europe as well as Israel in Asia and the Eurasian transcontinental countries of Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. UEFA consists of 55 national association members. Because of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, FIFA and UEFA suspended all Russian national representative teams and club teams from any FIFA and UEFA competitions.
 

Marked Change

Women’s football in Europe has witnessed significant change in recent years and the pace of progress is only set to quicken. Records are being broken, barriers are being torn down, new partnerships are being struck, and the value of the game is increasing.

The game is advancing in every area. On the pitch, the number of professional women’s teams is rising sharply while the technical standard and sporting quality of the game is improving quickly. As a result, the number of international transfers is growing, with spending passing €2m for the first time in 2021.
 

Record Attendance

Off the pitch, the number of people tuning into women’s football and attending matches is increasing.

‘UEFA’ further stated that the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final had double the number of viewers in 2022 compared to 2021, the competition’s social media reach exceeded 20 million (a 76 percent increase on the year before) and the UEFA Women’s Champions League semi-final between FC Barcelona Femení (Spain) and VFL Wolfsburg Women (Germany) at the 99,354-capacity Spotify Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, in 2022 attracted a record-breaking crowd of 91,648 people.

The 2022 UEFA Women’s Champions League Final was the final match of the 2021-2022 UEFA Women’s Champions League, the 21st season of Europe’s premier women’s club football tournament organized by UEFA, and the 13th season since it was renamed from the UEFA Women’s Cup to the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

At the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 in England (UK), over 574,000 people attended the matches, which also attracted over 300m viewers worldwide.

The 2022 UEFA European Women’s Football Championship, commonly referred to as UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 or simply Euro 2022, was the 13th edition of the UEFA Women’s Championship, the quadrennial international football championship organized by UEFA for the women’s national teams of Europe.
 

Major Sponsors

At the same time, top women’s leagues in Europe are attracting major sponsors, such as Barclays and AXA, and the number of landmark broadcast deals continues to increase, with headline partners including Sky, the BBC and DAZN.
 

The Way Forward

As the pace of development accelerates, women’s football finds itself at a critical juncture. Interest in the sport and its value are growing fast and the level and nature of investment from key stakeholders over the next decade will be critical in its development. For national associations, leagues, clubs, and other key stakeholders to make informed decisions and invest on the scale required, they need a clearer picture of the value of the women’s game and what that development will look like.

The report addresses the unique potential of women’s football in Europe. The report also provides guidance for national associations, leagues and clubs on how they can sustainably develop the game and maximize their return on investment.
 

Reshaping Women’s Football

The UEFA and the game’s key stakeholders have an extraordinary opportunity to develop and professionalize women’s football in Europe over the next decade by investing now and working closely together to achieve growth and realize the sport’s enormous potential.

This report aims to facilitate that process, providing a pathway for growing the game in a way that will reshape women’s football by raising standards on and off the pitch, increasing its value and repositioning it in the sporting ecosystem.
 

Takeaways

The key findings of the report demonstrate that the time to get involved in the women’s game is now:

  • There are 144 million fans of women’s football across Europe;
  • There could be 328 million fans by 2033;
  • Almost one in three fans of the women’s game are new to football;
  • The fan base is diverse and largely young, and has strong progressive values;
  • Women’s football could see a sixfold increase in its commercial value over the next decade, reaching an annual value of €686m by 2033;
  • The value of club sponsorship is set to increase sixfold to €295m by 2033;
  • For 84 percent of fans domestic success is important;
  • At least 50 percent of players on the most successful teams are now professional, but there is more work to be done in raising standards off the pitch;
  • Women’s football is associated with inspiration, empowerment and a family-friendly environment;
  • Eighty seven (87) percent of integrated clubs said that involvement with women’s clubs has had a positive impact on their reputation;
  • Sixty three (63) percent of people under 35 believe all clubs should have a women’s team; and
  • A total of 77 percent of leagues report an increase in the number of professional players.

 

Unique Fan Base

Women’s football has a unique fan base that is diverse and predominantly young and has a strong propensity to consume digital content. With women representing nearly half of the fan base, women’s football is already attracting a larger female audience than other sports.
 

Fan Engagement

Looking ahead, as the quality of the sport increases, women’s football fans will become more engaged and develop an even deeper relationship with the game.
 

Limited Visibility

The limited visibility of the women’s game is a key barrier that is preventing it from increasing its fan base and unlocking its potential both on and off the field.

Put in Emma Bârsan, Women’s Football Development Manager, Romanian Football Federation, “Visibility must be a priority for the game – we need more games on TV, more marketing by clubs to leverage their brands and more player visibility in the media generally.”
 

Observations

 

Buy-in

A commitment to women’s football among the leadership is essential to the success of initiatives.
 

Data and Evidence

The creation of a clear business case is essential to attracting commercial partners and broadcasters.
 

Synergies

Existing platforms and infrastructure (e.g., stadiums used by men’s teams) can be leveraged in the growth of the women’s game.
 

Players’ Role

In women’s football, the players are the game’s most powerful asset – they have a unique power to inspire fans, draw fans to clubs and influence how fans consume content.
 

Community Engagement

Community engagement is an important driver of local grassroots and talent development, as well as club and league investment.

Having a well-supported and invested-in women’s team within a community creates positive perceptions and is a source of pride for fans who value contributions to their local community and investment in local talent. This connection can be used by clubs as a tool for strengthening engagement, attracting new fans and players to the game.
 

Development of Women’s Football

The demands of fans and brand partners are already driving investment in women’s football. There is a strong sentiment among fans that all clubs should be involved in the development, advancement and professionalization of the women’s game, while a significant number of young fans view clubs that are not involved in women’s football negatively.

Claire Bloomfield, Head of Women’s Football, European Club Association, concluded by stating, “As the upward trajectory of women’s football continues, there are not only an increasing need but also an expectation for more investment in the game at all levels. The strategic investment by European men’s clubs in the UEFA Women’s Champions League is just one of the positive responses we have seen, but we cannot stop there. The entire industry must back the women’s game financially on a sustained basis if it’s to reach the heights we have long dreamed about.”

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