Europe Gets Serious About Women’s Football, Apart From Money

(Bloomberg) — Women’s football in England appears to be riding a wave of popularity since the Lionesses won the European Championships 2022 last summer.

Clubs from the Women’s Super League and the Football Association held a meeting last week where money-raising ideas, including a potential takeover by the Premier League, were explored. Attendees included many chief executive officers of England’s leading sides. The FA, which runs the WSL, wasn’t immediately able to comment.

The meeting comes as a number of attendance records have been falling. Arsenal beat Tottenham in front of 47,367 in September to set a new all-time high for the WSL. More than 46,500 saw the Gunners draw 1-1 with league-leaders Chelsea on Sunday.

Other clubs have also opened up their main stadia and attracted five-figure attendances to watch the women’s sides.

However, despite a growing interest there remain stark differences in financial metrics between the women’s game and the men’s. Here are some examples of the considerable gaps that still exist, both in England’s domestic game and internationally.

Revenues

The world’s 20 highest revenue-generating clubs brought in an average revenue of €2.1 million ($2.27 million) each from their women’s teams in the 2021/22 season, according to research by Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.

At the top was Barcelona, ​​winners of the 2021 UEFA Women’s Champions League, who brought in €7.7 million of revenue in the 2021/22 season. This was a tiny fraction of the club’s overall revenue of €1.02 billion for that year.

In second place in the women’s rankings were Manchester City with €5.1 million, less than 1% of their overall revenues of £613 million ($747 million).

Attendances

Women’s Super League (WSL) matches have averaged 6,000 spectators in the 2022/23 season so far, compared to 39,915 in the Premier League, according to transfermarkt.com. While still low, it marks a sharp increase from an average of 1,931 fans who came to watch each WSL match last season.

And some matches far exceed the average. This weekend, Arsenal attracted more than 46,500 to the Emirates for a women’s match against Chelsea. “Please come back,” Arsenal coach Jonas Eidevall told Sky Sports after the 1-1 draw. “We love you all and the great

atmosphere you provide.”

To clinch the Euros at Wembley in July last year, England beat Germany in front of 87,192 fans — a record for any European Championships final. Outside of the big fixtures, however, women play in front of relatively small crowds.

Ticket Prices

Despite the dramatically increased profile of women’s football this year, ticket prices are at the other end of the scale to the men’s game. Even at the top clubs, season tickets for the women’s teams can often be picked up for a 10th of the cost of watching the men.

A season ticket at Anfield costs at least £685 to see Jurgen Klopp’s men, but you can support the women’s team for £60.

At Arsenal, adult season tickets for the men’s game start from £926, and £80 for the women’s. At Chelsea, adult season tickets to watch the women can be bought for just £44, compared to a minimum of £750 for the men.

At Manchester City, the gap is less big but still considerable: season tickets cost a minimum of £350 for the men’s team and £58 for the women’s.

World Cups

FIFA president Gianni Infantino criticized broadcasters in October who he said were making offers for the women’s World Cup next summer that were 1% or less than what they offered for the men’s tournament in Qatar. “This is not acceptable,” said Infantino at a press conference.

He said viewing figures in some countries for the men’s and women’s tournaments are similar. According to FIFA, the 2018 men’s World Cup in Russia brought in $3 billion in broadcast revenue, but the equivalent 2019 women’s competition raised about $300 million.

FIFA recently said it earned record revenues of $7.5 billion over four years of commercial deals tied to the recent World Cup in Qatar but it’s not yet clear how much of this was specifically from the tournament’s broadcast income.

The women’s Euro 2022 tournament was expected to deliver just €60 million in revenue.

Prize Money

FIFA had a pot of $440 million in prize money for the 32 qualifying teams in the Qatar World Cup last year, with winners Argentina receiving $42 million. At the most recent women’s competition, there was $30 million available in total, with the winner getting $4 million.

In 2019, Infantino proposed doubling the total prize money to just $60 million for the next tournament. It will be split between 32 teams instead of the 24 which played in the last tournament.

Media Rights

In 2021, the BBC and Sky announced a “landmark” three-year broadcast deal for the WSL, which put their matches on free-to-air TV for the first time in a deal worth £7 million to £8 million a season.

The Premier League’s broadcast deals are worth around £10 billion over three years, including global sales, according to Minal Modha, consumer research lead at Ampere Analysis. Domestic rights exceed £5 billion.

Player Salaries

History was made last year when female players for the US team secured equal pay. Later in the year the US passed a bill to guarantee equal pay for all American women competing in international events.

In England, however, WSL players are being paid as little as £20,000, according to figures reported by The Telegraph last year. Its investigation suggested that the best-paid player in the league had been offered a contract worth about £300,000 a year.

Before he left Manchester United in November, Cristiano Ronaldo was reported to earn the highest salary in the Premier League, at more than £26 million a year. His weekly wage, over half a million pounds, was therefore higher than the best-paid woman’s annual salary.

In Scotland, international female players have launched legal action demanding equal pay and conditions.

(Updates with attendance, result in third paragraph.)

©2023 Bloomberg LP

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