INTHEBLACK November 2023 - Magazine - Page 33
AT A GLANCE
The popularity of women’s
sport is gaining strong global
Sporting codes are
leveraging this to attract
and consumer dollars.
However, obstacles such as
the gender pay gap continue
to hinder growth.
The economic potential of women’s sport can no longer
be underestimated. The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup
generated A$887 million in revenue. What lessons can
business take from gender equality on the field?
Words Susan Muldowney
On the evening of 3 February 2017,
Australian Rules football fans crammed into
Melbourne’s Ikon Park stadium to watch
history in the making. While women have
been playing the game since its creation in the
mid-19th century, it took more than 150 years
to develop a professional female league.
On that balmy summer evening, the newly
minted women’s Collingwood Magpies team
clashed with the Carlton Blues. The Australian
Football League (AFL) had expected
a crowd of up to 12,000 people at the
inaugural match, but 24,500 AFL Women’s
(AFLW) enthusiasts packed the stadium.
As thousands more waited outside the locked
gate, former AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan
ventured outside to apologise to fans.
“We didn’t quite anticipate this crowd, and
it’s fabulous,” he said.
A NUMBERS GAME
Fast-forward six years and sporting leagues
of all stripes can no longer afford to
underestimate the power of women’s sport.
Along with attracting a growing legion
of fans, women’s sport is also drawing hefty
corporate sponsorship deals and an increasing
global broadcast audience.
No longer just a “nice to have”, women’s
sport presents huge economic potential, and
its momentum is growing around the globe.
India’s Women’s Premier League, for example,
is set to become one of the most lucrative teams
in the world. The five franchises in its inaugural
cricket tournament sold this year for a collective
US$580 million (A$909 million).
US women’s basketball league, WNBA,
raised US$75 million (A$117.5 million) last
year to support player demands for expansion,
higher salaries and better benefits. Football
Australia leveraged its co-hosting of this year’s
FIFA Women’s World Cup to achieve a goal
of gender parity in participation by 2027.
Meanwhile, Cricket Australia is well on the
way to becoming the first major Australian
sport to achieve pay parity at a domestic level.
“We recognised that supporting and
developing women’s and girls’ cricket at all
levels would yield enormous benefits for the
game in the long term,” says Stuart Whiley,
general manager of strategic projects at
“The impact of our world champion
women’s team cannot be overstated when
looking at the future of the game.”
Sport is a powerful vehicle for unity and social
change. However, a long history of indirect
discrimination has created barriers to the
development of a market and patronage for
women in sport.