Women’s sports may be a better long-term investment than men’s, a study suggests

  • Women’s sport capable of innovation without competing with inflexible established formats, study claims
  • Men’s sport is also said to be overburdened with too many investors, a packed calendar and powerful rights holders

Women’s sports could be a better long-term bet for investors than men’s competitions, according to new research by The Sports Consultancy (TSC) and accountancy and business advisory firm BDO.

While acknowledging that women’s sport is still at an early stage in its development, the report points out that it can innovate without having to compete with inflexible established successful formats. It is also likely that there are no complex trade structures that can limit growth.

TSC and BDO add that there is “tremendous growth potential” if investment is targeted in the right way, but stress that investors may need to be patient to achieve returns.

According to the study, men’s sport by comparison is congested with too many investors competing with each other to find profit, as well as a lack of calendar space for new competitions or formats. Strong incumbent rights holders are also able to resist disruption from new entrants.

The report also highlights the growing demand for women’s sport, particularly among younger audiences. A YouGov survey found that 44 percent of global sports fans aged 18 to 24 preferred to watch women’s sport over men’s, compared to just 16 percent among the over-55 age group.

Sponsors are waking up to this growing interest, the report said. A Nielsen study found that women’s dedicated sponsorship investment across three of the biggest sports rights holders – FIFA, UEFA and World Rugby – increased by 146 per cent in 2021.

Women’s sport in the UK could also generate £1 billion (US$1.2 billion) a year in revenue by 2030, up from £350 million (US$418 million) in 2021, according to the Women’s Sport Trust (WST ) and data and insight agency Two Circles.

The inquiry comes in the same week that private equity firm CVC has been linked with paying US$150 million for a 20 percent stake in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), while England’s Football Association (FA) recently denied reports that it had rejected a UK bid of £150 million (US$180 million) from an unnamed investor to form a rebranded Women’s Super League (WSL).

“This month’s UEFA European Women’s Championship is likely to give a real boost to interest in women’s football – and women’s sport more broadly,” said TSC Associate Director Kirsten Sibbitt-Johnston.

“Clearly there is a huge untapped market, particularly among the younger generations, and indeed we may now be on the cusp of a huge investment wave.”

“However, investment should be directed towards growing the sport – by supporting female athletes, increasing professionalism and increasing exposure. It’s also about building new ways for fans to engage with the personalities, characters and rivalries that truly drive passion in competitive sports.

“The biggest returns will come from those who invest in the women’s sports ecosystem, buying a greater share of influence and the ability to set the direction for the sector.”

Ian Claydon, head of professional sport at BDO, added: “Covid-19 has helped boost the profile of women’s sport as space in the sporting calendar has allowed for much greater exposure, particularly through streaming platforms.

“We are seeing huge interest among young fans, but the value of some women’s sports assets is still very competitively priced compared to equivalent opportunities in men’s sports, and sponsors and investors are taking notice.

“However, men’s sport did not grow to what it is today overnight, it took decades of sustained professionalization and investment. We expect a faster trajectory for women’s sports, but investors will still need to focus on the medium to long term if they are to take advantage of the opportunities available.”

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