There are more fans in the stands, there are more people tuning in on TV — this is how much women’s football has grown in the last few years.
Women’s football has been on a meteoric rise as of late, and its growth cannot be denied. Leagues around the world are gaining bigger followings, more national women’s teams are competing at the top level of international football, and players are getting the attention and credit that they deserve.
To celebrate this growth, let’s take a quick look at just some of the things that women’s football has been able to achieve over the last few years.
Reaching record ticket sales
The growth of women’s football is easily highlighted by the rise in ticket sales over the years, particularly among the big leagues and tournaments around the world.
The UEFA European Women’s Championship (AKA the Women’s Euro) is one of, if not the biggest football tournament for women in Europe and it has been around since the 1980s. In the most recent edition in 2022, the Women’s Euro sold a record-breaking number of 500,000 tickets. This amounts to more than double the fans in the previous tournament in 2017.
In front of record crowds, the England women’s national team won the Euro 2022. With this, many credited the uptick in ticket sales for their local women’s league to this victory.
After England’s win at the Euro 2022, the Women’s Super League (the top-flight football league for women in the United Kingdom) saw an increase in ticket sales too, with major teams such as Chelsea, Tottenham, and Manchester City reporting significant jumps in spectator numbers.
But even outside of Europe, the growth of women’s football has also been undeniable. In this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, a record 1.4 million tickets were purchased for the 64 tournament matches. This number surpassed the previous record set in the 2015 edition in Canada.
An increase in ticket sales means that women’s football is generating more attention, which could, in turn, spark more interest, more sponsorships, more players, and a whole lot of mores in a snowball effect.
Getting more women in the game
Apart from the support of the fans, the sheer number of people involved in women’s football is another huge sign of the sport’s growth.
In 2017, UEFA reported that the number of registered female football players across UEFA’s 55 member associations increased from 1.2 million to 1.36 million in just the span of a year. On top of this, many important categories in the sport also saw an increase, such as the number of qualified coaches, match officials, and youth teams.
In Spain alone, the number of women holding a license from the Royal Spanish Football Federation nearly doubled from 44,873 in 2014 to 87,827 in 2022.
Outside of Europe, women’s football is growing just the same, and one of the signs of this lies within the Women’s World Cup — the biggest international football tournament in the world. This year, FIFA increased the number of participating World Cup nations from 24 to 32. With this, many countries made their World Cup debut just this year, including the Philippines.
With more people getting into the game now, and with more dreamers getting the chance to see their nations competing at the top level, the sport could stand to grow exponentially in the years to come.
Increase in fees
It’s now common knowledge that big-time footballers earn huge salaries. And over the last decade, women in football have been earning more and more, especially those of exceptional talent.
For instance, Arsenal pays Leah Williamson around £200,000 and Australia’s and Chelsea’s Sam Kerr earns around £400,000 per year. However, given that these are two of the biggest stars in the Women’s Super League, these numbers are higher than the average pay in the league, which amounts to around £47,000.
In addition, the fees for women’s players have been on the rise. To illustrate, the record for the most expensive transfer rates in women’s football has been broken every year since 2020, and it now sits at £400,000 (Kiera Walsh’s transfer from Manchester City to Barcelona in 2022) from the previous £250,000.
These figures are a far cry from men’s football where players stand to earn up to millions. The pay gap is still huge for a number of reasons. However, the records within women’s football that continue to break are promising signs of its growth.
As the 2023 Women’s World Cup takes place, women’s football has never felt more alive and well. The leagues are gaining popularity, many female footballers are becoming household names, and more fans are wearing their jerseys.
While there is still a long way to go to make sure that this exponential growth stays sustainable for future generations, already, women’s football can be proud of what it has achieved — and it is surely not stopping any time soon.
Banner image from FIFA Women’s World Cup on Instagram.