Women’s football, a “big business” on the way?

The thirteenth edition of European Championship football starts on July 6 at Old Trafford in England. Budgets, broadcasting rights, sponsorships, participation and popularity, the transformation of women’s football is everywhere and at all levels. It is still left to find an economic future for it.

The show, which will take place over three weeks between the sixteen best teams in Europe, is one further steps towards the professionalisation of women’s football worldwide. At least the elite, because it’s above all what fills the stadiums, attracts crowds, the media, the interest of brands … and allows its players to claim equal bonuses, salaries, infrastructure, image rights or, as in Australia, maternity leave before returning to the national team.

The professionalization of the royal sport in its female version is as slow as it is heterogeneous and remains a function of cultures, countries and club agendas. But she represents the ultimate step in creating a viable and profitable women’s football economy.


million euros

Since the 2019 World Cup, the popularity of international women’s soccer tournaments has been a growing source of revenue for broadcasters. TF1 achieved its top three ratings that year, generating more than $ 30 million in advertising revenue.

The auditing firm Deloitte predicts a bright future for women’s elite sports with estimated revenues of over $ 1 billion in 2021. It’s not just about football, but it’s obviously drawing big as he’s at the top of the audience. In the football industry, broadcasting rights are the key to security. And while it is still too early to assess her financial legacy, the 2019 World Cup for Women has proved crucial. The tournament almost brewedone billion viewers, in addition to the 480 million who watched it via streaming. The final between the United States and the Netherlands alone captured 260 million people. In France, then a host country, TF1 achieved its three best audiences of the year with more than 10 million viewers, enabling it to increase its advertising rates by 60% and raise more than 30 million euros.

On the other side of the canal, where the Lionesses are number eight in the world, the name contracts have been renegotiated up to £ 10 million over three seasons from 2019. More cautiously at the time of the last World Cup, which it only partially offered on its streaming platform, RTBF will broadcast all the meetings of this Euro live on its Tipik channel. The same applies to our neighbors, where the big media – and the most greedy franchises – take over the competition and thus give it new, if not expected, credibility, such as the BBC, TVE, TF1 / Canal + (TMC).

The red flames, power value

For their second consecutive participation in the European Championships, our Red Flames receive support from media, financial and commercial players, for whom women’s football gains value in marketing strategies. Flame’s main sponsor since 2019, ING places the impact of their qualification for the European Championships “on the level of popular success” and the “opportunities” to be offered to its customers. However, this is not a revaluation of sponsorship contracts in favor of the players.

The Carrefour group, which has been present with the Red Flames since 2014, is organizing for the first time an operation aimed at winning tickets to a home game with the purchase of Jupiler and Coca-Cola packages in particular. In addition to “bringing fans closer to the players”, the stated aim of this campaign is to “encourage the Belgian consumer to adopt a healthy lifestyle”. For those wondering about a possible link between speech and the choice of alcohol and soda to “promote regular physical activity”, the sign explains that any campaign involving the Red Flames must necessarily involve the Federation’s partners. And that “these products (…) also fulfill the wishes of the Belgians when they watch a football match”.

The economy of women’s football

“At the national team level, it works financially, but not yet at the local level. The budgets for women’s football in Europe are very specific, many of them linked to the men’s sections.”

Luc Arrondel

Sports Economist, Research Director at CNRS.

Would women’s football become a “big business”, referring to the famous phrase “Football is a big business” by William McGregor, the founder of the English Football League? Understanding its challenges requires distancing oneself from demagogic, militant attitudes, and political correctness, which give women football values ​​that are supposedly more moral and more ethical than ordinary mortals. And this, even though “history has shown that women’s football is a battlefield”remembers Luc Arrondel, sports economist and research director at CNRS.

“From an economic point of view, it is clear that men’s and women’s football is not not on the same planet. It’s hard to talk about money in women’s football because there is few academic studies on the subject and available data are rare and often partial. But it all depends on what we’re talking about. At the national team level, it works financially, but not yet at the local level. The budgets for women’s football in Europe are very specific, many of them linked to the men’s sections. “

What future should women’s football choose? “You have to know what you want. Women’s football remains in deficit, however in England, for example, there has been real attention. The organization of this Euro has made it possible to establish a real development and growth plan since 2016 to restructure women’s football. Their strategy of professionalization goes through the homogenization of the championships for men and women and the goal of doubling the spectators in the stadiums. The clubs are now required to appoint general managers affiliated with the women’s department and pay for national matches. The association did not have many moods, some historic women’s clubs disappeared because they could not meet the specifications. “

Football has developed along with the place of women in society, and it is not immune to major societal problems.. Wage differences between male and female players would thus be explained by a dual socio-historical and economic process. “Men’s marginalization of women in the football world in the 20th century is a reality. Today, the labor market for footballers and female footballers is incoherent. Men and women are not seeking the same positions. The size of the cake is different, it’s not just about discrimination.”

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