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Study: UK women’s sport to generate UK£1bn a year by 2030

New research says that increased visibility will be key to achieving revenue forecast.

20 April 2021 Sam Carp
  • Closing the Visibility Gap study predicts that annual UK women’s sport revenue is set to triple from UK£350m
  • Report highlights lack of industry investment in female athlete visibility
  • Two-thirds of UK sports fans currently follow some form of women’s sport, while half have attended events featuring female athletes

Women’s sport in the UK could generate UK£1 billion (US$1.4 billion) in revenue a year by 2030, according to a new study by the Women’s Sport Trust and data and insight agency Two Circles.

The study, titled ‘Closing the Visibility Gap’, forecasts that revenue in UK women’s sport will reach nearly triple the annual UK£350 million (US$488 million) it currently generates.

Despite the growing opportunity, the report highlights that the sports industry has ‘underinvested’ in making female athletes visible, which has limited the ability of rights owners to capitlise on commercialising the rise in interest.

It was also noted that more than half of the revenue in UK women’s sport is currently generated by soccer and tennis, while 50 per cent of attention on female athletes is concentrated in one month of a year.

The study therefore says that the key to achieving the revenue forecast outlined in the report will be to make women’s sport more visible and increase engagement with female athletes.

Tammy Parlour, chief executive and co-founder of the Women’s Sport Trust, said: “Women’s sport has been on a strong growth trajectory. However, most sport played by elite female athletes still has a long way to go until it becomes commercially viable.

“To achieve long-lasting change, and for women’s sport to occupy a central role in our culture in the UK, the sports industry must widely recognise a social responsibility to building sport for all, and practically connect a vision for women’s sport to long-term commercial profit.”

The Closing the Visibility Gap study included what was described as the ‘largest nationally representative survey of UK women’s sport fans’, as well as interviews with sport executives and a comprehensive audit of women’s sports coverage on owned and earned digital media channels.

The results showed that two-thirds of UK sport fans currently follow some form of women’s sport, although only 25 per cent of those do so actively.

More than 80 per cent of respondents said that major events and TV broadcasts have been important factors behind following women’s sport, but it was highlighted that over a third (36 per cent) of women’s sports are broadcast only via digital channels.

In addition, the study found that less than 30 per cent of the most prominent images on the main social media channels of some of the highest-profile UK governing bodies feature female athletes.

Parlour added: “We hope this research can play a role in supporting all sport industry stakeholders in this endeavour, helping them present female athletes and teams in ways that resonate with fans, create meaningful interactions for partners, and build success for women’s sport overall.

“We believe the next decade will be a gamechanger for women’s sport and with some concerted focus on key areas such as visibility and data we can ensure it is not only commercially viable but sustainable for decades to come.”

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