sportsbiz women in sports

The phenomenal rise of women’s sports globally

March 7, 2024

Today, March 8 marks the International Women’s Day. As per a recent report by the United Nations, 340 million women and girls will be living in extreme poverty by 2030. The importance of gender equality and the well-being of women in today’s world cannot be overstated. The last few years have been game-changing years for women’s sports. Changing cultural attitudes towards gender roles and stereotypes have contributed to the acceptance and normalization of women’s participation in sports. Efforts to challenge traditional notions of femininity, promote diversity and inclusion, and celebrate athleticism in all its forms have created more supportive environments for girls and women to participate in sports and pursue their athletic aspirations. Women are taking charge in the sports ecosystem which has resulted in women’s sport being further bolstered around the world.

As per ESPN, 80% of female Fortune 500 CEOs played sports in their formative years, which emphasizes the profound impact of early exposure to sports on women’s development. This is a testament to the invaluable skills cultivated from sports, skills that resonate far beyond the court or field. Of all transactions in 2023, 14% were women’s sport only deals, with an additional 34% of deals into mixed properties that involved both a men’s and women’s rights holder. Women’s sport deals in 2023 were largely concentrated in football, basketball and cricket.

In football, Michele Kang formed the first multi-club ownership group in the women’s game. While in basketball and cricket, several investments were made into WNBA franchises. The FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 was a resounding success with record attendances.

Kansas City Current’s Co-Owner, Angie Long said: “As the first stadium purpose-built for a professional women’s sports team, CPKC stadium is a proof of concept in many ways. It will prove how investment and stadium ownership is the key to success for women’s sports. It allows these world-class athletes the opportunity to optimize their scheduled playing times and provides the revenue streams needed to reinvest in players and the fan experience. This is just the beginning and I believe it will cause a global ripple effect, bringing forward the success of elite facilities for women athletes. We can’t wait for Kansas City Current players to take the pitch and for fans to experience the electric atmosphere of CPKC Stadium. We are the first, but we won’t be the last.”

A recent report titled ‘Making Live Sport Matter’ reflects the UK’s ambition to maintain its reputation as a world-leading host nation through securing a programme of events, including the most impactful international events in women’s sport, whilst continuing to pioneer the integration of men’s and women’s events and the integration of Olympic and Paralympic sports.

The UK is already preparing to host the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2025, the European Athletics Championships in 2026 and UEFA EURO 2028. The new list of aspirational hosting targets includes the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the biggest global sporting event the UK has never hosted, along with the Men’s Rugby World Cup, the Athletics World Championships, the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup and the Tour de France.

Meanwhile, in India the successful completion of the Women’s IPL auction set a new high watermark for the valuation of a women’s sports team. The league is now in its second season. It was the second big event with regards to women’s sport after the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2022.

Jinisha Sharma, Director of Capri Sports which owns the UP Warriorz franchise of the WPL said: “The opportunity before us as a women’s cricket franchise representing the state of Uttar Pradesh in India is immense. We are committed to leveraging our platform as an enabler to not only make sports more accessible but also to significantly increase participation among young girls. Our vision extends beyond the cricket field; we aim to be stalwarts in supporting women’s sports at multiple levels, fostering an environment where talent thrives and dreams are pursued with fervor.”

According to Deloitte’s 2024 Sport Investment Outlook, the global women’s sports market will see more investment activity and attract an expanding group of investors this year.

Women’s sport properties are predicted to create standalone commercial entities to align with growing appetite for investment and Deloitte further expects sports such as cycling, sailing and padel to attract investment given their increasing popularity, as well as a surge in minority investment in ‘premium sports assets’.

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