6 December 2017 –  Football, Association Football or Soccer (as many like to refer to it), is arguably the most popular and loved sporting code around the globe. This general consensus owes a lot to both sponsorship as well as media coverage.

However, does the Men’s game enjoy a larger share of major sponsorships, spoils and media coverage than the Women’s game? The answer is a resounding yes!

“The game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged,” said the English Football Association, when it banned women from playing in 1921. Another 76 years passed before women were allowed to play professionally again in England.

While the Men’s game has enjoyed the biggest slice of the pie over the last century or so, the Women’s equivalent has struggled to gain the necessary attention of fans, sponsors and indeed the media (including major television rights deals).

A paradigm shift is required if the Women’s game is to be preserved and developed further than it already has.

Yes the past couple of decades have seen at least some sort of improvement. Major tournaments such the FIFA Women’s World Cup as well as various leagues and competitions around the world have taken the Women’s game to new levels.

This, however, is not nearly enough and unfortunately much more needs to be done in order to grow the sport for females, particularly with regards to sponsorship and media coverage and here’s why.

This particular scenario is two-fold. The Women’s game is vital for the health of the sport as a whole, as well as for the players themselves. Football can provide multiple opportunities to improve the lives of female players while in turn, such players can assist in growing and improving ‘the beautiful game’. Sponsorships and media coverage are vital on both fronts and it must work both ways for the mutual benefit of all.

Firstly – the players themselves. In an ever expanding world in which gender equality is paramount, football needs to roll with the times and embrace females as a critical aspect of the world game. Not only can football provide alternate career opportunities for females (which include financial rewards and more) but also a way out of poverty (particularly in continents such as South America and Africa). Such females also require sponsorships for training, extra wages, endorsement deals etc. This is simply the tip of the iceberg but can only be implemented if relevant media houses and sponsors get on board.

Secondly – the game itself. Women’s football is an exciting growth avenue (but can only attract top-notch sponsorship if given the appropriate coverage by the various media such as radio, television and digital). If successful in tapping into this giant media pool to raise awareness, the resulting sponsorship can bring a wealth of advantages such as financial, commercial and otherwise, not only for the game but to the investors too. Nike remains a shining example, having been involved in Women’s football sponsorship since the early 90s (by reaching new demographics) and is still reaping the rewards (via data-driven marketing strategies), while in turn growing the game.

All-in-all, both sponsors and the media, are key variables in the overall growth of Women’s football. Not merely for the sport itself but for improving the lives of its female players as well.

Sasol has very recently renewed its sponsorship of Banyana Banyana and SAFA’s Women’s League for another four years, which augurs well for the local game. The sooner more sponsors and media get on board (not just locally but internationally) the sooner the Women’s game will continue to grow from strength to strength.

By: Dhirshan Gobind