Little considered for a long time, women’s football has caused a real craze since the beginning of the 2010s, as highlighted by both the increase in the number of licensees as well as that of television viewers. Unfortunately, the financial aspect is still lagging behind, like male / female pay parity, which has never seen any real improvement. Ironically, reversing this trend depends directly on those who point the finger at it: the supporters.
To say that there is a wage disparity in the world of football is an understatement, because if the average salary of Ligue 1 footballers – although probably skewed by that of some PSG stars – is close to 100,000 € gross per month, the average among female footballers is around € 2,500 gross. Even if we take into account the highest salaries, all championships combined, while that of Messi exceeds 70M euros annually, excluding advertising, the highest paid player in the world, Samantha Kerr, tops out at around 600,000 € (1) annual gross.
A startling gap which, however, is easily explained: player salaries depend almost directly on club income, which is based on three pillars: ticketing, TV rights and commercial income, and this is precisely where these inequalities are born.
The last Women’s World Cup, however, suggested that a milestone had indeed been crossed. More than 11.8M viewers attended the France / USA semi-final; By way of comparison, they were 20.9M ahead of the France / Croatia men’s final in 2018, but this sudden popularity of course did not really last over time. Of course, the Blue always perform well, but the audiences achieved by the clubs are much more nuanced.
While the final of the Champions League (F) between Lyon and Wolfsburg had attracted 1.7M viewers in France at the end of August 2020, the one between PSG and Bayern Munich (M) had attracted 11.4M. With a ratio of almost 1/7, we can only see the limits of the “World Cup” effect.
The same goes for the crowds in the stadiums. At the start of the 2019/2020 season, a few weeks before the covid-19 crisis and the end of the championship, the average attendance of Lyon (F) at home – yet one of the best clubs in Europe – hardly exceeded the 5000 spectators. On the men’s side, the average attendance at the Parc des Princes was over 47,000 (2) at the same time.
Nevertheless, the commercial sector remains the one with the greatest room for progress, especially on the side of sponsors, and here again, paradoxically, everything depends on the public.
The rise of PSG (H) over the past decade has shed light on how much sponsorship and popularity are closely linked. Indeed, the visibility of players and teams on social networks almost directly determines the investments that sponsors are willing to make. The biggest men’s football clubs are omnipresent there, and manage to capitalize on their stars, who subsequently become real brand-players, in other words, ambassadors of their respective teams to the sponsors.
However, the latest figures obtained by the IQUII institute highlight how little, if any, this trend is in the world of women’s football. The fanbase of D1 currently has 1.2M followers, in England, the most watched championship in the world, it reaches 14.7M, and in Italy, it does not even manage to reach the 350K of followers.
Conversely, the popularity of men’s football is peaking, Premier League clubs can boast of having 575M of followers by themselves. Ligue 1, for its part, has almost 135M and Serie A reaches almost 224M fans (3) An impressive gap, mirror of wage inequalities.
In addition, this lack of popularity is also present among female players. While the trend of brand-players is on the rise among men, where the notoriety of some players exceeds that of their club, or even their championship, we can take for example Cristiano Ronaldo who has 267M subscribers on Instagram alone, their female counterparts only meet very limited success on these same platforms.
Golden ball holder and world champion Megan Rapinoe has 2.2M followers on Instagram, less than some hopes in men’s football, having barely started their professional careers.
In the end, thePay equity in the world of football therefore depends directly on its supporters. Improving audiences is in itself only a first step in the right direction and can still be improved. Only a greater attendance in the stadiums – when the return of the public will be possible – and greater popularity of clubs as well as players on social networks could allow women’s football to evolve financially.
Such a step has already been taken in the world of tennis, and it remains only to know if the football player will be able to do so in the near future.