In 2017, the FA sought to double the audience of women’s football by 2020, how successful were they?
The ‘Gameplan for Growth’ strategy was initially started in March 2017. The review will eventually culminate in the FA announcing a fresh vision.
The new mission statement will outline how the FA intends to support the women’s game for the next four years.
The FA set out to double the women’s football fanbase in England. The aim was to grow the sport as a whole.
The biggest area that the FA identified for improvement was match attendances. The goal was use Women’s Super League and Lionesses home games to quantify the growing fanbase.
The target was to double attendances from 11,000 to 22,000 at Lionesses games, WSL attendances from 1047 to 2020 and to raise the peak viewing figures for league games from 46,000 to 96,000.
For the most part it appears the FA has not only reached but exceeded their targets.
Attendances at Lionesses matches in the last 12 months have ranged from 13,449 vs Spain to 77,768 vs Germany. Fixtures against Brazil and New Zealand exceeded 20,000.
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These figures could have been even better if the rumoured match between England and USA against Wembley would’ve gone ahead. An 11.7m TV audience for the World Cup semi-final would have translated to another expected sell-out.
Marzena Bogdanowicz is the Head of Commercial and Marketing for Women’s Football at the FA. She reflected on the new data.
“The interest has been growing at a speed we had never seen before,” she said. “It was a journey that gathered unprecedented momentum during last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“By the time the Semi-Final came around, the Lionesses were the big story. An incredible 11.7 million tuned in from home, pubs, parks and even Glastonbury to watch.
“The World Cup provided a backdrop for an unprecedented acceleration of the women’s game. Previously it has been difficult to transition the success on an international stage to domestic growth but this time it was different.”
So, things are looking good for the international matches but how has that translated to the domestic realm?
Average attendance is up 174% from 2016 in the WSL, growing by 3,072 by 2019-20. Even that is a 34% from the season before, even without games held in bigger stadiums such as the North London and Merseyside derbies.
Peak television audience was also up 231% from 2016 to now. The top audience of 270,000 for Chelsea vs Spurs in September 2019. The FA Cup final last season reached 2.2 million on TV.
When laying out the framework for the 2020-2024 strategy, the FA should be aiming even higher.
With the Covid-19 pandemic putting a handbrake on domestic leagues and the uncertainty surrounding the future, it would be understandable for them to reassess targets.