United Kingdom

Women’s football review seeks to build on Euro 2022 success

A review of women’s football will focus on growing audiences, boosting revenues and examining its ties to the men’s game, as the UK government and the domestic governing body aim to build on England’s victory at Euro 2022.

Former England footballer Karen Carney will lead the review, with a call for evidence to be launched by the Football Association in the coming weeks, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said on Friday.

Carney, who played for England 144 times and represented Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympic Games, said there was an “urgent need to ensure there are processes and structures in place that protect the interest of the game and the people working in it”.

The review, ranging from grassroots to the elite, will assess the potential audience and growth opportunities for the women’s game.

Also at its heart is the need to increase broadcast and sponsorship revenues in women’s football, which lag behind the billions of pounds spent on the men’s game.

Former England footballer Karen Carney will lead the review © Jose Breton/NurPhoto

The review comes at a critical juncture for the women’s game, which for decades suffered neglect and a lack of investment, limiting its commercial growth.

But it has recently come to the fore with eye-catching displays that have driven record-breaking attendances and commercial interest. According to DCMS, football is the most-played team sport for women and girls in England.

More than 365mn people around the world tuned into Euro 2022 this summer, with 574,875 tickets sold for fixtures. The tournament generated revenues of roughly €60mn for its organiser Uefa, almost a fourfold increase on the 2017 edition.

The annual value of match day income, sponsorship and media rights in the women’s club and league game could grow five times to €552mn from €116mn in 2021, according to a “base case” scenario set out in a Uefa report this month.

The government and leading football figures have stressed the case for further investment to avoid losing momentum.

The Women’s Super League, the top division in England, which launched in 2011, is now dominated by teams owned by clubs in the English Premier League, the richest men’s division in the world by revenues.

Those ties would be examined as part of the review, DCMS said, which would also explore the “need for women’s football to adhere to the administrative requirements of the men’s game”.

Carney would, in addition, assess prize money and the “adequacy, quality, accessibility and prevalence” of facilities for women and girls. The government is already investing £230mn in grassroots football and other pitches across the UK.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries said women’s and girl’s football required “robust infrastructure” to ensure its long-term sustainability.

“The Lionesses’ spectacular performance shows how far we have come . . . While it is right that we celebrate and reflect on that success, we need an equal emphasis on improving participation, employment opportunities, commercial investment and visibility in the media,” she added.

A full report is expected early next year.

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