Women’s World Cup 2015 is proof that the women’s game is growing
In Vancouver, over the course of the weekend, the USA women’s national team beat Japan to become the most successful team ever in the history of the tournament as they came through the final with a 5-2 victory. This Women’s World Cup, wonderfully hosted by Canada, will evolve to become a reference point for the growth of the women’s game as FIFA and women’s football recorded a number of important milestones. In previous years, since the inception of the female World Cup in 1991, there have been question marks over the viability of the event’s success especially given the fact that the men’s event was a behemoth which constantly threatened to overshadow the women’s game. It also did not help that despite FIFA’s best efforts, most national associations only paid lip service to growing their domestic female football leagues and teams. But following the 2015 edition of the Women’s World Cup the signs of growth for the female game are looking better than ever.
In many ways, the women’s game broke barriers and won key appeal and the biggest evidence of this was seen in television audience data. In the United States, for example, Fox averaged 25.4 million viewers for just the final of the Women’s World Cup between the USA and Japan. Considering that the final of the first ever Women’s World Cup in 1991 was not even broadcast on any station in the United States, this is an incredible figure particularly as, in the United States, soccer- as they like to call it- is still regarded as a growing sport. Interestingly, statistics suggest that the female game is set for a better growth rate than the male game in the USA.
The women’s game has also become increasingly competitive over the years and the 2015 edition, after the expansion to 24 teams, there was even increased competition. Perhaps some context: In 1991, of the 26 matches at the Women’s World Cup, only one match (3.85%) ended in a draw. 11 of the matches (42%) were high scoring one sided victories. In 2007 and 2011, the draw percentage had increased to 18.75 per cent. The increased competition in the event makes it an even more exciting TV property. Naturally, given the increased interest, the Women’s World Cup has also become a viable sponsorship asset in corporate circles as the last event saw FIFA announce that it had sold out sponsorship categories and packages for the 2011 World Cup 18 months before the start of the tournament. Considering that the first ever edition only had one sponsor, the growth in this regard is undeniable.
In response to the recent growth of the women’s game, Europe’s biggest clubs are starting to increase investment in their female teams with clubs like Bayern Munich, Paris St Germain and Manchester City stepping up investment in their female teams. The offshoot of this is that national domestic competitions and continental ones like the UEFA Champions League will become increasingly competitive thus aiding development. In all of this, it is crucial for Africa to avoid being left behind. In addition, there is a need to correspondingly increase investment in female football and sports.
There will continue to be cynicism around the women’s game but the progress it has made and continues to make cannot be denied. Underappreciated and seemingly ignored for too long, women’s football is steadily becoming an attraction in its own right. Even though it might struggle to match the men’s game, it must be said that while the first women’s World Cup was held in 1991, the first men’s event was held 61 years before- in 1930. Male football had an early head-start on women’s football but recent events show that the ladies are holding their own very nicely.
In the final against Japan, USA player Carli Lloyd scored a 16th minute hat-trick and thus set a record for the fastest ever hat-trick scored in any World Cup final- the men’s game inclusive. In other words, ‘what a man can do…”
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