Women’s FA Cup final and Women’s Football Weekend 2021 draw spectators and TV viewers as interest takes off
The recent Women’s Football Weekend, Women’s FA Cup final, and new national broadcasting rights deals demonstrate that interest in the FA Women’s Super League (WSL) is spiking, according to strategy consulting firm Altman Solon.
The strong attendance and viewership for the annual Women’s Football Weekend and Women’s FA Cup final reinforce the FA’s recently announced strategy to boost fan attendance and viewership. In addition, the WSL has garnered strong TV ratings in the first year of the WSL’s broadcast deals with the BBC and Sky Sports. With WSL’s fan base growing, Nielsen estimates a total season audience of 14.5 million in the UK with WSL becoming the fourth most viewed domestic league in the country.
Altman Solon’s 2021 Global Sports Survey, which gauged sports viewing and fandom among 18,000 respondents in 16 countries across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia, explores, among other trends, the growth of the women’s game and the implications of global female fandom on sports leagues, clubs and media partners.
Its findings on global women’s sport show that more than half of UK women (52%) watch sports at least monthly. In addition, a growing female fan base follows the top global sports leagues in high numbers – although female fandom is more event-focused than men, with a higher percentage of women selecting flagship events such as FIFA World Cups as their top sporting competitions to watch. These findings show there is an untapped pool of global female fans for teams, leagues and media partners to engage with – and highlights opportunities to turn casual fans into more regular viewers.
In addition to finding that 21% of UK women chose the WSL as their favourite league to watch, the survey also shows a promising international interest in the league, which is popular with female fans in countries across the world.
Altman Solon’s analysis showing burgeoning fan interest in the WSL was reinforced by the nearly 41,000 spectators at this weekend’s Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, which saw Chelsea defeat Arsenal 3-0. In addition, more than 1.3 million watched the match on BBC One and another 160,000 streamed it through BBC iPlayer. Attendance also spiked during Women’s Football Weekend last month, including 2,900 fans attending the North London derby at The Hive, recording WSL’s Tottenham Hotspur’s biggest ever attendance at the stadium and a 120% increase on their previous home game against Manchester United only a week earlier.
“The record attendances for the Women’s Football Weekend is just one sign of the growing popularity of the WSL and women’s sport globally. There is a palpable buzz around the WSL, with increasing spectator numbers in stadiums and more opportunities for fans to enjoy the WSL through our groundbreaking media partnerships,” said Kelly Simmons OBE, director of women’s professional game, The FA.
“We are seeing significant tailwinds from rights holders and investors exploring opportunities in women’s leagues. The FA and Women’s Super League are in the unique position to build a global leader and future powerhouse in the women’s game,” said Ian Lube, partner at Altman Solon.