Are ITV Missing a Trick with Women’s Football?



Since I last put pen to paper about Channel 4’s coverage of the Women’s Euros in 2017 things have come a long way. The Lionesses have gone from strength to strength and interest in the female game has grown along with their success.

Attendance to matches are drawing crowds larger than those in the 1920’s, before the FA banned women from playing on its clubs’ grounds. The top of the table clash between Atletico Madrid V Barcelona on the 17th March 2019 set a new record attendance for a women’s club game with almost 61,000 fans watching our very own Toni Duggan net the second goal, closing the gap to three points and shaking up the title race.

With the Women’s World Cup in France kicking-off on the 7th June and the Lionesses currently ranked 4th in the world and sitting joint 3rd favourites to win (after recently lifting the She Believes Cup in America), it’s looking likely that both the attendance and TV viewing figures will exceed the previous tournament. Opportunities around the women’s game are at an all-time high, with more than 50% of young fans wanting to watch and learn more about women’s football. However, they have stated that the profile of the game still needs to be raised, with the game still not on 44% of respondent’s radars very often (Source: Copa 90’s study of 16-24 year old football fans across the world).

With the announcement of Barclays’ £10 million sponsorship deal of the Women’s Super League (Barclays sponsored the men’s Premier League between 2001 – 2016, after which they continued the relationship by becoming their Banking Partner until the end of the 2018/19 season), Budweiser’s partnership with the Lionesses, Gatorade becoming sports nutrition partner of Manchester City Women (they are already the men’s team nutrition partner) plus Boots’ multi-million pound deal to sponsor the home nations and Republic of Ireland women’s teams, the profile of women’s football is all set to change. These brands make these decisions because they know the consumer base has an appetite for women’s sport.

Channel 4 covered the Women’s Euros in 2017, however, it is the BBC that is leading the way amongst the broadcasters. The She Believes Cup, Women’s International’s, FIFA Women’s World Cup, UEFA Champions League, and FA Women’s Super League are all being aired across BBC channels.

Surely, it is only a matter of time that the bigger commercial broadcasters with a heritage in men’s football, like ITV, take notice of the momentum behind women’s football and get involved themselves. ITV are desperate for young adult viewers, they can also deliver the numbers that women’s game needs to keep growing and can now finally attract big brands to sponsor and advertise in it.