Football: Football Proving Big Attraction for Women; BUSINESS OF SPORT

The Birmingham Post (England), April 29, 2006 | Go to article overview

Football: Football Proving Big Attraction for Women; BUSINESS OF SPORT


Byline: PETER SHARKEY

As a birthday gift last year, I was given Football: The Golden Age, an enormous collection of outstanding black-and-white photographs subtitled 'Extraordinary images from 1900 to 1985', a book which succeeds in capturing the essence of football's appeal and drama.

It is laden with photographs depicting weighty-looking football boots seemingly more suited to walking along the bottom of the sea, inventions such as an automated crossing machine from 1938 and numerous clips of men lacing leather footballs, but my favourites are the crowd scenes.

Yet apart from a gem from 1953 of mothers and babies queuing for big match tickets on behalf of their men-folk adjacent to rows of prams, the pictures show few women at regular matches.

Were the publishers to produce another title, Football's Golden Age - for some, covering the period 1985-2006, however, one fancies the female form would be decidedly more evident.

Over the past 20 years, football has undergone enormous change, not just in relation to finance, sponsorship and broadcasting, but also in terms of its appeal. Indeed, recent research has shown that football's popularity among women is on the increase, with almost nine million regularly watching big matches on television.

Furthermore, the effects of what is a significant change in social habits will become even more apparent when the World Cup kicks off in June.

Manufacturers of female-oriented products, who would have previously dismissed advertising their brands during a month-long World Cup as a waste of money, now appreciate the buying power of football's female television audience. It follows that this year, in between those often amusing half-time laddish beer ads, we can also expect to see commercials featuring luxury shampoo, hair removal and cosmetics.

The myth that women are not interested in football appears to have been laid to rest following the publication of data by market research company TGI.

According to the firm, 36 per cent of women (8.9 million) now watch football on television, up from 16 per cent in 2001, while a staggering 41 per cent (10.1 million) claim to have an interest in the game.

One research company, Sports Marketing Surveys, found that 42 per cent of viewers watching Euro 2004 on television in the UK were female, a figure of enormous interest to agencies booking television airtime on behalf of clients keen to reach females during June.

According to PHD, an agency that undertakes research for female-brand clients, only two per cent of women really went out of their way to avoid the last World Cup.

This time around, it believes that with high profile players having become 'celebrities' and thus regularly appearing in the women's glossy magazines, what it describes as "the non-core football audience" will also be attracted to games featuring these players. …

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