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Expert blog: There has been a surge in ticket sales for women’s football since the Lionesses’ Euro success – and we need to build on this momentum

By Dr Johan Rewilak, Senior Lecturer in Sports Economics, School of Science and Technology

Image: Dr Johan Rewilak

After the Lionesses brought home football in front of 87,192 fans at Wembley last Sunday, the celebrations continued the next day in Trafalgar Square. There has since been a surge in demand for tickets for women’s football.  The England team plays USA on 7 October at Wembley, where all general sale tickets have now been sold out, with the FA website crashing due to the increase in demand.  This has also transcended into the upcoming Women’s Super League (WSL) season, where Chelsea’s season tickets have now sold out, and the North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur has witnessed a rush in over 7,000 additional ticket sales.  Many of these games are over a month away, with the WSL season not commencing until mid-September.

However, will this increase in ticket sales go hand-in-hand with an increase in attendance?

The literature on spectator no-shows suggests that there is a chance we will still see some empty seats. Typically, no show behaviour is primarily shaped by a game’s quality and novelty aspects, such as local derby matches. This may foremost explain that whilst the Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur derby may witness an attendance boom, other games may not, despite the additional ticket sales. A further worry is that season ticket sales also create an inaccurate image about demand throughout the season.

This is because season tickets are shown to be purchased as an insurance mechanism to avoid missing out on specific games, and fans are happy to pay the cost and not attend matches they perceive to be unattractive. This may potentially have a disastrous impact on Chelsea FC, however football fans are also drawn to watch superstars, where their presence in a match may increase attendance. Thankfully for Chelsea, they feature several Lionesses who were pivotal in England’s success, are coached by Emma Hayes, FIFA’s best women’s coach in 2021, and feature a plethora of other stars such as Pernille Harder and Sam Kerr.

However, the superstar effect may only impact a handful of WSL clubs, as focusing on the England squad, the players were concentrated from a small number of clubs. Furthermore, a couple of these players have also moved abroad, reducing this pool of players domestically. It has also been shown that the superstar effect wanes over time, which may further lead to this surge in popularity becoming a temporary phenomenon riding on the crest of a wave, which will settle down over time and become transient.

A recent article from The Conversationhas called for more women’s matches to be on television. It is argued that greater exposure to women’s sports will drive demand, and it has been shown that familiarity may help customers develop a preference to a product. Yet, when focusing on matchday attendance, this may be disastrous, as it offers a substitute product that may reduce attendance. Likewise, it has been shown following the success of the Lionesses, there has been a large increase in grassroots enquiries. With grassroots games potentially clashing with live WSL fixtures, full stadiums for women’s games may be a rare sight.

Despite this scepticism, I share the view of Stacey Pope and Rachel Allison and hope that Euro 2022 will be a catalyst for women’s football in England. Approximately 517,000 tickets were sold prior to the opening game between England and Austria. This was double that of the previous Euros in 2017, and certainly cannot be attributed to the bandwagon effect of just a successful campaign by England, as during the tournament, only an additional 10% more tickets were purchased.

In addition, the legacy effect of Euro 2022 is far more than an increase in the number of fans attending a stadium. It is enhanced participation in women’s football, greater tolerance of the sport and gender empowerment. Euro 2022 has been a stepping-stone but this momentum needs to carry on. For example, the BBC, whose viewing figures for the final exceeded 17m viewers, on Wednesday 3 August, still did not feature any news about female players in their transfer gossip column.

Finally, one benefit of the Covid-19 pandemic is that it has compressed the international calendar for international tournaments. Next summer, the Women’s World Cup will be played in Australia and New Zealand which should help keep this momentum building for women’s football.

With two more games to play and currently topping Group D, it is hopeful England will qualify, however, if they do, there may be some sleepy supporters given the kick-off times.

Expert blog: There has been a surge in ticket sales for women’s football since the Lionesses’ Euro success – and we need to build on this momentum

Published on 8 August 2022
  • Subject area: Sciences including sport sciences
  • Category: Press office; Research; School of Science and Technology

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