Another female sport is becoming a big business
“Is this how we should show up before you come to our games?” read the frustrated slogan of the French national team, posing nude during the women’s football World Cup in 2011. At this year’s tournament in France figures smashed records without such desperate measures. FIFA, the game’s governing body, estimates that it drew a total of 1bn viewers, up from 750m four years ago in Canada. The semi-final featuring England was the most watched television programme of the year so far in Britain. Some 14m Americans saw their team beat the Dutch 2-0 to win their fourth title on July 7th, more than tuned in to most basketball and baseball league finals.
Sponsors have taken note. Visa, a payment- card network with a taste for supporting high-profile sports events, spent as much promoting it as it did on the men’s competition. Earlier this year Barclays, a bank, became the first ever title sponsor of the English Women’s Super League (WSL) in a deal said to be worth over £10m ($12.6m). On July 5th Alipay, China’s electronic-payments giant, announced a 1bn yuan ($145m) ten-year deal with the Chinese women’s football team.