Growing the Game - How sponsorships will help
The Women’s World Cup format is continuously changing with every cycle, things are being improved and added to. Since its’ inception in 1991, the amount of teams playing has expanded from just 16 up to 24. It was only in the last World Cup in 2015 that the games were forced to be played on artificial turf, which caused a lot of uproar considering how hot it gets playing on the rubber surface, and England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley had to be subbed off in their quarterfinal meeting with hosts Canada after getting some of the rubber pieces in her eye, causing it to swell up.
The tournament has gone from being officiated by a mix of male and female referees to exclusively female referees and VAR, the video assistant referee, will be used for the first time at the Women’s World Cup. As another first, Nike has designed its kits to fit female athletes. As the game has grown, so has the quality and the competitiveness of the game, and this year a lot of teams are emerging as proper contenders for the cup.
One thing that has proved to be huge for the women’s game is the injection of sponsors in the game. Having sponsors goes a long way in terms of helping out financially, it allows clubs and the national team to invest in hiring good coaches, looking after their players properly and of course - actually paying them.
We have seen more and more brands waking up to the opportunities that women’s football present, and in the past year alone there has been a huge wave of support from different brands in different parts of the game. Barclay announced a sponsorship deal with the WSL which is huge for the English league and the continuing development of the national standard.
Budweiser secured a deal to become sponsors of the England women’s team, and Boots has gone as far as to endorse not only the English team but all four British nations, as well as the Republic of Ireland. This is the first time a deal like this has included all five nations, and the sponsorship will run over three years, covering England’s and Scotland’s World Cup campaign as well as the Euros 2021 in England.
Lucozade is another big name that has chosen to commit themselves to the women’s team, having been a sponsor of the England men’s team since 2008. The idea is that the sports drink will support grassroots campaigns as well as the team heading to France in 2019, with some of the England players featuring on their bottles for the first time.
At the end of last year, UEFA announced that they had agreed on a 7-year-deal with Visa and as the first sponsor of UEFA women’s football, it was a big deal. This is an agreement that shows the world that women’s football is important, that it too has value.
When big companies like Visa go in and show intent by putting their money where their mouth is, there is a possibility for change, and that in turn allows for perceptions of the game, perceptions ingrained in society due to decades of derogatory treatment of the women’s game, to shift. With money, the game can develop and with exposure, the game can grow.
Words by @badfootballfan