Women’s sport emerges from economic ‘shadowlands’
Ms Denholm pointed to 39,454 spectators who last week watched Barcelona defeat Roma Women 1-0, the WNBL that recently smashed its attendance record with 7681 fans at Melbourne’s John Cain Arena, and the rise of Matildas captain Sam Kerr who now plays for Chelsea and will be the first Australian female footballer to earn over $1 million.
Football Australia’s head of Women’s Football, Sarah Walsh, told the conference that this year’s Women’s World Cup was expected to reach 2 billion viewers and have 1.5 million attendees. Australia’s 2023 Women’s World Cup opener against Ireland has been shifted from Sydney’s Allianz Stadium to the 83,500-capacity Accor Stadium in expectation of a near-record crowd for the historic clash.
Melbourne Football Club President Kate Roffey said the commercial benefits from women’s sport would flow as more eyeballs were driven to the games.
General manager of operations at the AFL, David Stevenson, said getting on free to air television with AFLW was really important and the reach of Kayo meant “we are so bullish on AFLW”.
General manager of Cricket Australia Stephanie Beltrame pointed to the sale of media rights for the Women’s Indian Premier League for $175 million.
“There are examples where it is standing on its own but also other examples where we continue to nurture and grow,” she said.
The CEO of PGA Australia, Gavin Kirkman, said the “sleeping giant” was the 43 per cent of the 5.8 million Australians interested in playing golf who are women.
But News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller sounded a note of caution, warning that minor sports were facing a “crunch time”.
“The pool – the pie available to sports whether it be from broadcasting, sponsorship, ticket sales or merchandise – isn’t growing much. The top-tier sports are taking the largest share of that. In Australia, we probably have only three: rugby league, AFL and cricket,” he said.
“The rest of the sports in Australia, I would say are struggling to get out of tier three into tier two and fighting for a smaller part of the pie and also competing now with the international sports coming in, funding – rightly – women’s leagues and having to invest in junior sport.”
But Ms Denholm said despite economic turmoil and reduction in consumer spending, those countries and companies that invested in innovation would prosper in the long run.
“Sport and tech compete on global scale and are in a race to keep one step ahead,” she said.
But Ms Denholm said more work was still needed to maintain participation in women’s sport with, more than half of girls quitting sport by the age of 17, despite the reported benefits.
“It’s no surprise that 80 per cent of the female executives at Fortune 500 companies have played sports in their formative years,” Ms Denholm said.
She pointed to a wave of female CEOs heading up the country’s biggest tech companies including Melanie Silva at Google, Pip Marlow at Salesforce, Vicki Brady at Telstra and Kelly Bayer Rosmarin at Optus, as well as female start-up founders like Mel Perkins at Canva, as a sign of the changing times.