I, like millions of others, watched the final of EURO 2022 in awe. The crowd of 87,192 established a new record for a women's international game in Europe, bringing the total aggregate attendance to over half a million for a tournament. Both figures doubled the previous highs.
Over the course of the competition, European Broadcast Union Members screened more than 1,200 hours of live coverage, reaching a cumulative audience of over 280 million people.
For its live coverage of the final, the BBC reported a peak audience of 17.4 million, making it the most-watched women’s football match ever on UK television and the most-watched TV programme in any genre so far in 2022. This figure was supplemented by 5.9 million streams of the game on the BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app.
This was a truly remarkable performance - on and off the pitch - that set a new benchmark for women’s sport in Europe. Now, the question is, how can women’s sport at all levels of the pyramid benefit and develop from the growing interest at the elite level?
It’s been clear for a few years that women’s sport is on an upward trajectory, with market commentators suggesting it could be a better long-term bet for investors than men’s competitions.
As recent research from The Sports Consultancy TSC and BDO points out, women’s sport is still in an early stage of its development and that allows it to innovate without having to compete with established but inflexible formats. It is also likely to be free of complex commercial structures, which can limit growth.
The report also highlights the growing demand for women’s sports, particularly among younger audiences. A survey from YouGov found that 44 per cent of global sports fans aged 18 to 24 preferred watching women’s sports over men’s, compared to only 16 per cent among the 55-plus age group.
Mirroring the increasing interest, a study by the Women’s Sport Trust and data and insight agency Two Circles has predicted the women’s sports industry will generate more than US$1 billion in revenue by 2030. The study, titled ‘Closing the Visibility Gap’, forecasts that revenue in UK women’s sport will nearly triple the annual UK£350 million (US$488 million) it currently generates.
Despite the growing opportunity, the report highlights that the sports industry has ‘underinvested’ in making female athletes visible, which has limited the ability of rights owners to capitalise by monetising the rise in interest.
It was also noted that more than half of the revenue in UK women’s sports is currently generated by soccer and tennis, while 50 per cent of the attention on female athletes is concentrated in one month of the year.
The study concludes that the key to achieving the US$1 billion revenue forecast is to make women’s sport more visible and increase engagement with female athletes.
From a Joymo perspective, this is where we see limitless potential for women’s sport at all levels of the pyramid.
Historically, one of the biggest barriers to the growth of women’s sports has been the lack of big-money broadcast deals that underpin the ecosystem of many men’s sports from top to bottom.
As more money flows to the top, marketing efforts and media coverage increase, with funds filtering down to the grassroots level enabling participation to grow - creating a virtuous circle as the overall audience increases.
As the research suggests, interest in watching women’s sports is growing, so our challenge to organisers of women's sports is not to wait for a broadcast deal to come but to start streaming your content with Joymo tomorrow.
We’ve seen significant interest in the female sport events that we’ve broadcast in the last couple of years. That includes FA County Cup Finals, British Weight Lifting National Championships, Indoor Bowls and the CovidCup, a youth handball tournament that is our most successful ever female-only sports stream.
Encouragingly, and as proved by our own experience, a recent report by Sports Innovation Lab found women’s sports fans are some of the most technologically savvy in sport. They are more active on digital channels, can amplify content on social media, and spend more money on streaming subscriptions.
A highly engaged audience is waiting to be served. Streaming content immediately makes women’s sports more visible and also provides a platform to increase engagement with female athletes that is sorely needed.