By Anna Kyprianou, APC Sports Consulting Ltd
“Attendances are growing for the women’s league, and we’re well placed to become a mainstream sport in the future. I did not think when I started, that within my career it would be possible to be a full-time pro in England. And that’s already happened.” – Eniola Aluko
There are many debates when it comes to women in sports. The beginning of all debates dates back to 1967 when Kathrine Switzer decided to break through all stereotypes and run the Boston Marathon. Until then, only men were allowed to participate but Kathrine knew that it takes one to make a change and she did it! After her, more and more women participate not only in the Boston Marathon but also in every marathon happening around the globe. Since then, women have gained much more than just the right to participate in every sport.
Humans act by example when it comes to sports. They need role models before they decide to walk the path of a certain sport. The most recent example is football; the most male recognised sport worldwide. Football is called the beautiful game because of all the values it combines but mainly because of the support it attracts from every corner of the world. Women’s football is attracting more women and girls than any other sport in the last few years. The biggest advantage of football is that it is already well established and the men footballers are earning more revenue than any other profession in most countries. However, this is not the case with women footballers. As Billie Jean King stated, women’s sports is still in its infancy. The best way to grow women sports is by empowering women in sports and there are a number of very simple actions that each one of us can take.
First, we need to identify and empower female athletes for the right reasons. It is important to follow and promote campaigns like the #WhatIf campaign launched by Women in Football, or the #EqualGame campaign launched by UEFA. Participating in campaigns that promote women in sports for the right reasons tend to give hope and strength to women athletes to change the way they are seen in sports.
In addition, we need to look into the corporate world and try to attract more corporate investment. Businesses such as Betfair, Sky Sports and Barclays have pledged to invest in boosting the profile of women working in the football industry. Women sports stars can generate loyal fanbases, and boosting their exposure can bring more corporate social responsibility sponsorships. Brands such as SSE, Vitality and Kia, which are already engaged with women’s games, have spoken about how they are viewed in a positive light from audiences at women games. A well-known recent example is the USA women soccer team; their performance and ability to generate engaged fans brought more sponsors close to the team and they managed to earn more money than any other women’s team in the world.
Another way of empowering women in sports is by selling women’s sport on the basis of engagement and participation. Women sports are viewed as being more inclusive. While in men’s games fans are being loud, rude and angry, in women’s games fans are usually calm and tend to enjoy the sport in a more composed manner. Women’s games attract more families; it is the place to take your kids and introduce them to athletics and sports life. The difference of the audience composition and behavior is what pushes women athletes to act as professionals and behave in a way that is more appealing to fans. Fan engagement tends to be broader in sportswomen than it is in sportsmen and that gives a boost to women athletes to continue growing and becoming the real champions not only in sports but in life too.
Women’s sports deserve to be in the mainstream and this can be achieved through continued investment. Empowering women in sports will not only benefit the sports industry but the society in general. For a discussion and exchange of ideas on empowering women in sports you may get in touch with us at email@example.com.