Women’s sport is history in 2022 – and that’s why

Women’s sport has more than the moment; it is a more focused movement that is exciting to see and experience. The investment, interest and overall attention to women’s sports have been obvious in our publications for some time and I can’t remember a moment from my nearly 30 years in the sports business where there were such winds. Do you need proof?

Visibility: The WNBA has had a large number of views over the past few years, and ESPN had its best WNBA Draft audience since 2004 here. Nowhere has the focus on women’s sports been so strong as at the college level. In December, ESPN drew its best women’s volleyball audience with the Wisconsin-Nebraska NCAA Championship. April brought ESPN the best viewership of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship in nearly 20 years. College gymnastics has seen its best audience in history with the NCAA Women’s 2022 Championships. There is also global growth. A record 15.1 million people in the UK watched women’s sports in the first quarter of 2022, with the average viewer watching 54 minutes more than last year, according to the Women’s Sport Trust.

Presence: The United States needs to catch up, but just look at some of the attendance at women’s football in Europe. In April, FC Barcelona set a world record for women’s football attendance, with more than 91,000 attending the Camp Nou during the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League. This match was sold out in 24 hours and came just 23 days after the previous record of more than 91,000 was set again. It’s not just football in Spain that draws. The FA Cup for women in May set a record for attendance with just under 50,000 in the final between Chelsea and Manchester City. These figures prove the great interest in women’s football.

leadership: We see a new generation of leaders in women’s sports, with new ideas and an optimistic and ambitious point of view. Please Mark Samaan left Princeton to join the LPGA; Jessica Berman moved from NLL to become NWSL Commissioner; and Reagan Carey becomes commissioner of the High Hockey Federation. There is energy around Cindy Parlow Cone in American football and Amanda Vanderworth as president of the USL Super League and we see the strong, solid leadership that Cathy Engelbert carries in the WNBA. There are others, of course, and this shows that women’s sport is in good hands.

investment: Every week I am asked about investment opportunities in women’s sports – from NSWL and WNBA teams to women’s hockey, gymnastics, pickleball and other properties and events. There are stories of expansion strategies around each women’s league or new efforts like Athletes Unlimited. There are high-profile investments in Angel City FC, Kansas City Current and Washington Spirit, while Billie Jean King Enterprises and Mark Walter Group join behind PWHPA. These are serious players who invest their own real money in these assets. The difference in the quality of these investors is so palpable and cannot be ignored. On the brand side, Mastercard sponsors a number of women’s sports, and Hologic has signed the largest sponsorship in WTA history. And of course, there is a historic collective bargaining with the women’s national football team of the United States, which will guarantee labor peace and the ability to really develop the game. These moves speak volumes because investors see significant benefits and returns in the future.

This sample shows the undeniable interest and energy around women’s sports. In this issue (see special section), we have tried to increase the opportunities and challenges before us, and the people – the Strong Players – are driving this change. These leaders still have very steep mountains to climb and their efforts will not be easy. We hope this provides a roadmap for the future, because it is clear that we are seeing traffic for more than a moment.

YOU NEED YOUR GAME MODIFIERS: I will move from women’s sports to women in sports and ask us to help identify the next class of SBJ Game Changers. We have recognized successful women in the sports business since 2011 and over the years we have highlighted the stories of nearly 450 leaders who are helping to shape the industry. Please consider nominating a woman you know for the 2022 class who influences the industry and others through her talents, performance, leadership and innovation. Previous winners include professional, college and amateur sports, in sectors such as agencies, brands, entrepreneurs, finance, leagues, teams, media, national governing bodies and service providers. The winners will be honored at a ceremony held in connection with this year’s conference to change the games on October 26 at MetLife Stadium. Submit your nomination to www.Game-Changers-Conference.com before June 14.

You can contact Abraham Madkur at [email protected]

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