Women’s sport is (finally) becoming big business

They won! Competitions, such as the World Cup, on several occasions, and medals, including gold, at the London Olympics in 2012. But what the American soccer players have just won goes much further: it is equal pay with the men they got. At the end of an agreement, and above all, of a long battle, even in the legal field, the American Federation of “soccer”, as the ball game that crosses the Atlantic is called, promised that the two national teams, male and female, receive the same salary in competitions and international matches.

In addition, the two teams will share equally the money paid by the International Football Federation, Fifa, for their participation in the World Cups, which will be held for men in 2022, in Qatar, and for women, in Australia and New Zealand. in 2023. Are stars like Megan Rapinoe satisfied? Of course, but they point out, however, that they have been discriminated against for years, while their performance has sometimes surpassed that of the men… And if the footballers have agreed to share, the fact is that the 32 men’s teams that compete in Qatar next November will share $450 million, while the 24 women’s teams at the 2019 France World Cup had to settle for $30 million…

cultural developments

Where does this gap come from? Cultural – and sexist – reflections still well entrenched, which can be found almost everywhere in professional sport, be it football, tennis, golf, rugby, cycling…? Definitely. The fact that women’s sport does not attract as many spectators and therefore does not generate as much money as men’s sport in ticket sales and broadcasting rights? “In fact, if women’s football had not been banned between 1921 and 1971 in the UK, for the sole reason that it then attracted more crowds than men’s football, today it might be the most popular sport in the world, more than his male counterpart”, emphasizes Wladimir Andreff, honorary professor at the Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne University and president of the Scientific Council of the Observatory of the economy of sport, at the Ministry of Sports.

Still, over the past twenty years, women’s professional sport has evolved. So much so that at the end of 2020, the consulting firm Deloitte predicted that, taking into account television rights, sponsorship contracts and income from events, the amounts that it would be likely to generate would far exceed one billion dollars annually. the future. A certainly tiny figure compared to the 471,000 million reached by the sports business in general in 2018, but which, however, women’s sports has shown, in recent years, “its ability to generate a significant television audience, to contribute value to sponsors and attract thousands of fans,” says Deloitte. As for the Nielsen polling institute, it noted, in a 2018 survey, that the rise of women’s professional sports was one of the most significant global trends. In fact, Of the eight main countries studied, both in Europe and in the rest of the world, the data collected shows that 84% of sports fans in general declare an interest in women’s sport, including 51% of men.

Celebrating the footballers

Some clubs, especially football clubs, have understood this well. Following the cultural changes resulting from May 68, which allowed the development of women’s sport, FC Lyon created a women’s football team in 1970 (attached to Olympique Lyonnais since 2004) and Paris Saint-Germain opened a section in 1971 The Lyon The footballers have also just stood out again, by winning the Champions League final against Barcelona, ​​​​in a packed Turin stadium (more than 40,000 spectators).

“But if the strategy of these clubs bears fruit, in particular that of Jean-Michel Aulas, at OL, the salaries paid to the players still come from the income generated by the men’s teams,” tempers Wladimir Andreff.

High employees, since OL and PSG offer, according to estimates by the newspaper L’Equipe, the highest average gross monthly salary in the championship, with 12,000 euros and 9,000 euros respectively, and 37,000 euros for the two French internationals, Kadidiatou Diani (at PSG ) and Wendie Renard (in OL), but who still pale in comparison to the monthly millions of male stars at these clubs.

largest audience

Will French professional athletes one day get the same contract as men or, in any case, will they be paid the same price for their participation in international competitions? It all depends on certain elements, including the television audience. According to Deloitte, in 2019 the women’s soccer cup broke records, with a total of almost one billion viewers, to which we must add 500 million who accessed through digital platforms. As a result, broadcasting rights are constantly increasing in the major footballing countries. For example, in France, for the 2018-2023 period of the women’s D1, they cost 1.2 million euros per season on Canal+, compared to 110,000 euros in 2011 and 200,000 in 2017. And this, after the amounts , clearly superior, of course, the men’s matches are constantly falling, although they are still the subject of bitter battles… The sponsors are also there. Thus, the chemist Arkema, a partner of French women’s football since 2019, recommitted himself last April until 2025. A sponsorship that costs him 1.2 million euros per season. Professional athletes, whatever the discipline, are also benefiting from this enthusiasm in the form of sponsor contracts. In fact, “the female body is still a favorite advertising medium,” sighs Wladimir Andreff, who is also concerned that certain male shortcomings, such as aggressiveness, will take over women’s sport in the future, because of the spectacle…