Women’s sports are (finally) becoming big business

They won! Competitions, such as the World Cup, on several occasions, and medals, including gold, at the London Olympics in 2012. But what the American footballers have just won goes far beyond: It is equal pay with the men they got. At the end of an agreement, and above all a long battle, including on the legal basis, the American Federation of “soccer”, as the ball game across the Atlantic is called, obliged the two national teams, men and women, to receive the same salary in international competitions and matches.

In addition, the two teams will share equally the money paid by the International Football Association, Fifa, for their participation in the World Cups to be held for men in 2022, in Qatar, and for women, in Australia and New Zealand. in 2023. Are stars like Megan Rapinoe satisfied? Of course, but they point out that they have been discriminated against for years – while their performance has sometimes surpassed that of men … And if the footballers have agreed to share, it is a fact that the 32 teams of men competing in Qatar next November will share $ 450 million, while the 24 women’s teams at the 2019 World Cup in France had to settle for $ 30 million …

Cultural development

Where does this gap come from? Cultural – and sexist – reflexes are still well rooted, which can be found everywhere in professional sports, be it football, tennis, golf, rugby, cycling …? Undoubtedly. That women’s sports do not attract as many spectators and therefore do not generate as much money as men’s sports in ticket sales and broadcasting rights? “In fact, if women’s football had not been banned between 1921 and 1971 in Britain – for the sole reason that it was more attracted to the public at the time than men’s football – it could today be the most popular sport in the world, more so than its male. counterpart “, emphasizes Wladimir Andreff, Honorary Professor at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne and President of the Scientific Council of the Observatory of Sports Economics, in the Ministry of Sports.

Yet the sport of women has evolved over the last twenty years. So much so that in late 2020, consulting firm Deloitte predicted that, taking into account TV rights, sponsorship contracts and event revenue, the amounts it would likely brew would far exceed $ 1 billion a year. the future. A figure that is admittedly small compared to the 471 billion that the sports industry generally reached in 2018, but women’s sports have nevertheless in recent years shown “its ability to generate a significant television audience, to bring value to sponsors and attract thousands of fans, “says Deloitte. Regarding the Nielsen polling institute, it noted in a 2018 study that the emergence of women’s professional sports was one of the most important global trends. In fact, the data collected shows of eight major countries surveyed in Europe and the rest of the world that 84% of sports fans generally declare interest in women’s sports, including 51% of men.

To celebrate football players

Some clubs, especially football clubs, have well understood this. In the wake of the cultural upheavals of May 68, which enabled the development of women’s sports, FC Lyon set up a women’s football team in 1970 (affiliated with Olympique Lyonnais since 2004), and Paris Saint-Germain launched a division in 1971. Lyon Footballers have also just marked itself again, by winning the Champions League final against Barcelona, ​​at a packed Torino stadium (more than 40,000 spectators).

“But if the strategy of these clubs pays off, especially Jean-Michel Aulas, at the Olympics, the salaries of the players will still come from the income of the men’s teams,” tempered Wladimir Andreff.

High staff, as the Olympics and PSG offer, according to estimates by the newspaper L’Equipe, the highest average gross salary in the championship with 12,000 euros and 9,000 euros and 37,000 euros respectively for the two French internationals, Kadidiatou Diani (at PSG) and Wendie Renard ( at the Olympics), but which still pales in comparison to the monthly millions of male stars from these clubs!

Increased audience

Will French professional sportswomen one day win the same contract as men, or will they at least be paid for their participation in international competitions at the same price? It all depends on certain elements, including the TV audience. According to Deloitte, the women’s cup in football in 2019 broke records with a total of almost one billion viewers, to which must be added 500 million, who gained access to it via digital platforms. As a result, broadcasting rights are constantly increasing in the major football countries. For example, in France, for the 2018-2023 period for women’s D1, they cost 1.2 million euros per season on Canal +, against 110,000 euros in 2011 and 200,000 in 2017. And this, so the amounts, clearly higher, of course, for the men’s battles, are constantly falling, though they are still the subject of bitter battles … The sponsors are there too. Thus, the chemist remarried Arkema, partner in French women’s football since 2019, in April last year until 2025. A sponsorship that costs him 1.2 million euros per season. Professional women athletes, regardless of discipline, also benefit from this enthusiasm in the form of contracts with sponsors. In fact, “the female body remains an optional advertising medium,” sighs Wladimir Andreff, who is also concerned about seeing certain masculine shortcomings, such as aggression, take up women’s sports in the future – for the spectacle …