OPINION: We Need To Talk About… Football! (Yes, Really!)

The BBC report that crowds at this year’s Women’s (Football) Super League are way up. The average attendance at a Division 1 WSL game is now over 1,000, spiking considerably following England’s successful World Cup run.

What does this mean for women’s cricket? That’s not an easy question to answer. On the one hand it validates women’s sport in general; but on the other, women’s football (taking place over the summer) much more directly competes with women’s cricket, for bums on seats, for sponsorship and for players, with the most talented sportswomen often finding themselves with options in both games, not to mention hockey as well.

The post World Cup attendance spike is interesting too. It is probably to be expected – nothing breeds success like success; but would it have happened if the games had not been on live, free-to-air TV?

The likes of Eniola Aluko, Casey Stoney, Steph Houghton and Fran Kirby are household and (don’t underestimate the importance of this…) schoolyard “names” now, starring in inspiring Virgin Media ads which make the cardboard cutouts of Sarah Taylor and Lottie in Waitrose look a bit… how can we put this… lame?

One thing is clear – we have to pay attention to what football is doing with their women’s game. Like it or not, the scheduling of our Super League needs to not clash too much with theirs, because if the two go up against each other, there will only be one winner, and sadly it won’t be cricket!

At the Cricket Super League launch, Clare Connor talked (tongue in cheek, I think) about Arsenal hosting a franchise. I dismissed it at the time, but some kind of partnership might not be a terrible idea, if only at local level.

It might not be common here, but in Spain all the top football clubs are actually “sports” clubs, with even the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona also hosting basketball and other sports teams, so it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

Finally, Super League manager Jo Kirk definitely needs to have lunch with her counterpart at Lancaster Gate. Domestic women’s football also underwent a controversial restructuring recently, which was violently opposed by many within the game… but it doesn’t seem to be working out too badly for them now!

 

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3 thoughts on “OPINION: We Need To Talk About… Football! (Yes, Really!)

  1. Let’s face facts, although women’s cricket has been growing rapidly at grass roots level for the last decade as the profile of the sport grew around the likes of Claire Taylor, Lottie, Lydia G and Sarah Taylor. It says something that my quote stops with ST who made her debut 9 years ago. The move to professional contracts (of sorts) was a big deal but in the wider context not so.

    The ECB has not acted swiftly enough to take advantage of the growth or been as transformational (until now with the WSL) there are I’m sure many reasons for this from the ECB Board, Media contracts cascading down plus a playing structure (County & ECB Pathway) that has been proven to be flawed with few new stars coming out of the ranks. I hope this has just been a lull and the next batch of modern female cricketers are waiting for the WSL to show case their talents (otherwise the game will be in deep trouble).

    Female athlete’s looking for a path into pro or semi-pro team sports can now choose between netball, hockey and football that have all probably overtaken cricket in the spotlight and for cricket apart from the World Cup and Australian tours the game is eclipsed by other sports and men’s cricket in the public eye. Parents and their young daughters now have a wider choice of sports and sporting heroines to choose from.
    Will my youngest daughter choose to play cricket, yes she is keen to play just like her older sister. Will she choose cricket as her life sport, to watch, support England and play I’m not so sure, her school already offers a taste of all of the other team sports and the majority of parents are more interested in shorter format sports and women’s football has grabbed the spotlight on TV (cable or terrestrial).

    That is the problem the ECB, Counties and Clubs have to address.

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  2. The football WSL is fantastic, and it has shown how women’s sport can be exciting and sustainable at high levels. But cricket has been and probably always will be a sport with a smaller base of support than football.

    One worrying thing for me has been that even the football WSL has struggled with sponsorship. After it began a few years ago we still haven’t got full, proper sponsors. We have a few “sort-of” sponsors like SSE, BT Sport and Continental but the WSL itself should be able to get a better deal, but has so far failed to. This is even with being able to support things like Wembley finals.

    This does not bode well for cricket – I wonder if the CWSL will prove to be a project for the ECB backed by devoted fans and supporters, with tiny amounts of sponsor subsidy, more than any sort of commencial venture. In which case it will be on borrowed time from the start. Hopefully it will take off but we’ll see.

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