How women’s football can avoid being corrupted when more money comes its way

The success of England at the Women’s Euros has increased interest in women’s football to unprecedented levels, with record-breaking viewing and attendance figures and an increase in Women’s Super League (WSL) season-ticket sales. But, as is all too obvious in the women’s game, success comes from investment at both national and club levels.

The national teams that dominated the Euros had invested in both player contracts and available resources. They were also stacked with professional players from clubs that have invested in their women’s teams, like eight-time Champions League winners Olympique Lyonnais and Barcelona.

With greater success, of course, we also see more investment, as businesses are more likely to want to be associated with proven “products”. And with more money comes more demands on players and teams.

Something that fans have enjoyed so much about the women’s game is its authenticity, seen in players’ emotional reactions as well as in the way they play, and in their close relationships with fans. But this is something that money can change. So how can the women’s game maintain its authenticity as more money inevitably enters the mix?

Where does the money currently come from?

Most women’s teams are reliant on financial support from their club’s overall group (for instance, Arsenal Holdings PLC is the group that owns both the men’s and women’s teams). In the case of the WSL, the money comes mainly from their affiliated men’s teams.

So while there has been an increase in broadcasting income for WSL teams this year following the landmark Sky and BBC deal of over £8m per season, there’s still the issue of influence from mainly male boards and men’s teams subsidising the women’s game.

Other income for women’s teams comes from ticket sales for games (matchday income) which, given average crowds for the last pre-COVID WSL season (2019-20) were 3,072, is not a large number. Overall, 90% of Arsenal Women’s income for the…

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