The FIFA Women's World Cup is a prestigious international event that showcases the best female soccer talents from around the globe. However, despite its significance and growing popularity, the Women's World Cup faces significant challenges in terms of exposure in hosting countries Australia and New Zealand.
Limited Coverage on Free-to-Air TV
One of the primary reasons for the lack of exposure for the Women's World Cup in Australia is the limited coverage on free-to-air television channels. According to recent Nielsen ratings, while the men's FIFA World Cup consistently receives extensive coverage on prime-time TV slots, the women's edition often accounts for less than 20% of the airtime devoted to soccer events. Major broadcasters in Australia have historically allocated minimal airtime to the Women's World Cup, prioritizing other sports events and male-dominated leagues.
The consequence of such limited TV exposure is that many potential viewers, including families and young fans, miss out on witnessing these extraordinary athletes in action. This leaves many viewers needing to purchase subscriptions for viewing sites such as Optus Sport.
A survey conducted by a leading market research firm revealed that only 37% of Australians were aware of the Women's World Cup schedule and match timings, compared to a staggering 82% for the men's World Cup. This lack of visibility contributes to the under appreciation and underrepresentation of women's soccer, especially in a home-crowd hosting nation such as ours.
Across New Zealand and Australia, there are a total of ten venues hosting the Women’s World Cup, with many in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane of note) having sell-out tickets. With regular calendar sporting events still running (national AFL and rugby games), it is surprising that one of the biggest sporting events of the year is being given smaller venues. The final of the Women’s World Cup will be held in Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, or Stadium Australia as it’s being known during the event, with a crowd capacity of 81,500. Many are surprised to hear this world-wide event isn’t being held in arguably Australia’s most famous (and largest) sporting venue; the MCG, with a capacity of >100,000. With an average capacity of 31,000 viewers between all the venues, this seems sub-par from the potential the game holds, and the exposure women’s sport needs.
The capacity of stadiums seems far below the online viewing of matches, with over 1.2 million people tuning in to watch the Matilda’s first match against Ireland this tournament. The disparity in stadium capacities also impacts ticket sales and fan engagement.
A survey conducted during the 2019 Women's World Cup found that 45% of respondents cited limited stadium capacity as a significant barrier to attending matches, resulting in lower attendance figures and a less vibrant game atmosphere. This not only affects the overall experience during the games but also hampers the ability to attract new fans and sponsors to support the sport.
Under-Promotion of Merchandise
In 2021 when World cup merchandise was first released, Nike made a BIG mistake – not including women’s sizing in any of their merchandise. This was rectified within a year, but left many people questioning Nike’s position on this one, our own Matilda’s players included.
Since then, the Matilda’s have sold more jersey’s ahead of the Women’s World Cup than the Socceroos did during the Men’s world cup. This shows the amount of support for our women’s team, with many venues running out of stock for the women’s world cup.
The Women's World Cup serves as an opportunity to celebrate female athletes' accomplishments and inspire the next generation of soccer players. However, the lack of exposure for the tournament in Australia through free-to-air TV, inadequate stadiums, and under-promotion of merchandise impedes its growth and hinders the progress of women's soccer in the country.
“You cannot become what you cannot see”, a collective effort is required from sports organizations, broadcasters, and sponsors to increase coverage on free-to-air television, utilise appropriate stadiums, and promote women's soccer merchandise.
These are crucial steps towards empowering women in sports and fostering gender equality in the sports industry. Only through these measures can Australia truly embrace the Women's World Cup and support the talented athletes who make this global event a spectacle of skill, passion, and determination.
Kelly Thompson is the newest member of the Sports journalist team. Kelly currently plays AFL for Casey Demons in the VFLW, and practices what she preaches as a HOPE (Health, Outdoor, and Physical Education) Teacher in Melbourne’s southeast.