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Women’s elite sport will top £1bn in revenue next year, predicts Deloitte

The Women’s World Cup final was watched by 75,784 in Sydney, with attendances at the tournament averaging nearly 31,000.

Tom White
Wednesday 29 November 2023 08:52 GMT
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(Getty Images)

Global revenues for women’s elite sport will top £1billion for the first time in 2024, finance company Deloitte predicts.

Rapidly increasing attendances and television viewing figures across different sports, coupled with more lucrative commercial and broadcast deals, sees Deloitte’s TMT Predictions report (technology, media and telecommunications) predict global revenues of 1.28billion US dollars (£1.03bn).

Commercial revenue contributes 55 per cent of that total, backed up by broadcast deals and matchday income.

Jennifer Haskel, insights lead for Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, said: “We wrote a prediction in 2021 and the revenues that were generated, from 2021 to now, is over 300 per cent higher. So you can see over the past few years there has been an incredible amount of growth.

“We’re seeing a lot of popularity in terms of viewership, attendances etc. That’s showing it’s also a great business decision to invest in and support women’s sport – that’s what I think that billion dollars shows.”

This summer’s Fifa Women’s World Cup final between Spain and England was watched by 75,784 in Sydney, with attendances at the tournament averaging nearly 31,000.

Over 86,000 watched hosts Australia beat India to win the women’s T20 Cricket World Cup in 2019 while last year’s Ashes drew significant crowds to English Test grounds including Lord’s and Trent Bridge.

Football’s Women’s Super League – which on Tuesday announced a new governing body also covering the Championship – has increasingly staged games at men’s Premier League grounds, with Arsenal hoping to sell out the Emirates Stadium next Sunday against Chelsea.

The NWSL and basketball’s WNBA have led the way in the United States, helping establish football with the largest share of Deloitte’s projection at 555m dollars (£436.7m) followed by basketball with 354m dollars (£278.5m). Tennis comes next with the WTA Tour competing on an equal footing to the men’s ATP Tour.

Haskel continued: “Because women’s sport is in this nascent phase, there’s this ‘test and learn’ culture where you can trial playing a certain amount of games at the main stadium or increasing and decreasing ticket prices – that matchday environment is only going to get better because the data will be there to show what fans want.

“Matchday and broadcast (income) are going to continue to grow but commercial is really that biggest lever for women’s sports right now.

“You’re starting to see women’s-only commercial deals, but also percentages of full club deals being attributed to the women’s team so that value is starting to become more apparent.

“It is a lower-cost entry point but there is potential for very high reward, as well as opportunities for different sponsors that could enter women’s sport because of the demographic or the marketing message.”

Commercial expansion is not without risk, as demonstrated by the controversial European Super League proposal in men’s football and the over-saturation of the global cricket calendar.

Women’s football finds itself at the other end of the process, with the Champions League qualifying structure coming under scrutiny after the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Juventus and Wolfsburg missed out.

Haskel said: “I think one of the benefits is women’s sport can learn from the mistakes of men’s sport but change paths and be a bit more agile because of how early on in the cycle they are.

“Every female sports organisation right now is looking at, what are the governance structures that need to be in place to make sure that as women’s sport continues to grow, it maintains financial sustainability.

“Maybe at first the structure was set up to mimic what the men’s side used to do but now women’s sport, as its own distinct product, can carve its own path and its own structure.”

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