With the World Cup now finished, it appears that women’s football has become more popular amongst the general public and our writer here at The Sports Lowdown, Ethan Gore, investigates whether Women’s Super League in England can now grow as a result of the recent World Cup.
Well, women’s football has always been overshadowed by men’s football and it’s obviously never going to reach those levels of popularity, however in recent seasons, the amount of people watching and following women’s football has increased rapidly. Reports have shown that there has been an attendance increase of 30% since 2012 and the crowd attendances in the WSL (Women’s Super League) has reached an all-time high at an average of 892. Admittedly, that’s not a large figure, but, for a women’s football game in England, this has really proven that there has been an increase in following and more people are willing to go and pay to watch it.
Ticket prices vary from £5 to £15, miniscule compared to a Premier League match and it shows they are willing to give the fans the element of joy for a reasonable price. Research conducted since 2012 has found that 36% of the general public would like to watch a WSL match compared to 32% who said they would like to watch a Europa League game.
The Women’s Super League Twitter account had only 4.1K followers in April 2012, but since then it has increased to 41.6K with it’s popularity consistently growing. BT Sport, striking a deal to broadcast the WSL, has helped with it’s growth massively. The channel agreed to broadcast 12 live WSL games over the course of the season, including at least three games for defending champions Liverpool and two games for Arsenal.
The Women’s Super League is only going to get bigger in the coming seasons with more teams joining as in 2014, the FA approved the expansion of the WSL as they would consider clubs from the newly-formed WPL (Women’s Premier League) to participate. The plan was by 2016, they would add one team to the WSL2 and add one more team the year later, and eventually the WSL would increase to 10 teams making it more competitive, exciting and intense. The BBC broadcast highlights for the WSL, which is broadcast across the whole country.
The Women’s World Cup has also seen a massive increase in popularity for women’s football with England’s recent semi-final match attracting viewings of 2.4M viewers despite it not starting until midnight and average viewings of 1.7M throughout the whole tournament. As a result of this, it’s likely to spur interest in the sport and entice more people to watch the current WSL season.
Women’s football has also been introduced far more over the country in schools with there now being 860,000 girls playing football above the age of 5. Currently, there are 1.6M women playing professionally, and this is expected to rise to over 2M by 2017 as these figures are consistently growing every year. The FA WSL’s commercial partner, Continental Tyres, are committed to promotion of women’s football and have hosted 22 FA Girls football festivals all over the country – in 2012 – at which, over 6,500 girls attended.
The plan for the FA is to get more girls involved in football very much like the USA have done. WSL has seen an increase in foreign footballers in England also, which has reached out to millions worldwide as the league aims to attract players from all over.
Women’s football is beginning to gain more investment with clubs being paid £70k a year from a club developmental fund. It doesn’t sound like much compared to men’s football, however it’s more than what it was years ago and women’s football is financially supported by the use of a salary cap allowing only four players in one single team to earn £20k or more per year. The highest earner in the WSL is England captain Steph Houghton who earns £65k a year whereas US star Alex Morgan earns £1.9m per year, largely through sponsors and the addition of women’s football to EA Sports popular video game FIFA, has also raised even more awareness to the sport with many people beginning to want to watch the sport.
It’s pretty clear that the Women’s Super League is now going to grow with England’s recent performance in the World Cup showing valiance, pride and passion, opposed to the men only a year ago. With more games likely to be broadcasted on BT Sport in the coming years, it will raise yet more awareness and increase viewings and attendance figures in Women’s football.
The increase of women playing football is also helping for the sport to improve with more players coming through the academies, and with there being a large number of foreign players playing in Europe, it’s attracting worldwide interest very much like the Premier League did with it’s inclusion of many foreign players.
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