The national teams that dominated the Euros had invested in both player contracts and available resources. They were also stacked with professional players from clubs that have invested in their women’s teams, like eight-time Champions League winners Olympique Lyonnais and Barcelona.
With greater success, of course, we also see more investment, as businesses are more likely to want to be associated with proven “products”. And with more money comes more demands on players and teams.
Something that fans have enjoyed so much about the women’s game is its authenticity, seen in players’ emotional reactions as well as in the way they play, and in their close relationships with fans. But this is something that money can change. So how can the women’s game maintain its authenticity as more money inevitably enters the mix?
Where does the money currently come from?
Most women’s teams are reliant on financial support from their club’s overall group (for instance, Arsenal Holdings PLC is the group that owns both the men’s and women’s teams). In the case of the WSL, the money comes mainly from their affiliated men’s teams.
Other income for women’s teams comes from ticket sales for games (matchday income) which, given average crowds for the last pre-COVID WSL season (2019-20) were 3,072, is not a large number. Overall, 90% of Arsenal Women’s income for the COVID-affected 2020-21 season (the last season for which available accounts exist) came from the owning group, followed by 6% from broadcasting, 4% from commercial, and only 0.2% from matchday (this was 17% of the income in the pre-COVID 2018-19 season).
Of course, increasing attendances would help with income and investment (more money coming in means more money to spend). However, men’s teams at the highest level, such as the Premier League, get most of their money from broadcasting, followed by commercial or sponsorship opportunities (shirt sponsorship, commercial partners), with the smallest proportion from matchday attendance. This changes as you go down the men’s leagues with (very high) dependence on ticket sales in the lower leagues.