The Women’s Sport Trust have recently repeated their claim that “revenue generated by women’s sport in the UK is set to grow [from £350m] to £1bn a year by 2030” via “ticket, broadcast rights and sponsorship sales”.
Women’s sport is undoubtedly an investment opportunity, but we also need to be realistic, and it is difficult to see where £1bn a year is actually going to come from.
The (Men’s Football) Premier League – the most valuable domestic sports competition in the world outside the United States – has revenues of about £5bn per year.
Barclays’ title sponsorship of the Premier League brings in just £13m per season, and total match-day income is of the order of £500m; so tickets and sponsorship sales won’t get us far towards that £1bn figure, even if we can match the Premier League.
Almost all of the Premier League’s £5bn comes from TV, and realistically that’s the only place where most of our £1bn is coming from too.
But where exactly?
The BBC is under enormous budget pressure; while BT Sport’s investors are rumoured to be getting antsy – so those avenues look closed, at least in terms of getting us anywhere near £1bn.
A “new player” is possible, but Netflix are only interested in subscriber acquisition; while Amazon Prime seem to be mainly focused on a long game of destroying the competition. You can imagine Amazon Prime buying men’s cricket, for example, to damage Sky, but it is difficult to imagine them forking out a lot of cash for “women’s-only” deals.
This leaves the aforementioned Sky. Could they squeeze an extra tenner a month out of all their Sky Sports subscribers to get us to £1bn by 2030? Maybe, but Sky are a pretty tightly run ship, and I think we can be fairly confident they know where their sweet spot is – if there was £650m to be found there, it’s a pretty safe bet they’d have already found it, so any increase in subscription prices would almost certainly be accompanied by a drop in the number of subscribers, with no increase in revenue.
It would be fascinating to know in more detail exactly how the Women’s Sport Trust arrived at the £1bn figure. It is a number that has obviously generated headlines and plenty of discussion on social media about how we might spend this windfall, but we need to be realistic.
Women’s sport is going places – it is an opportunity for growth and the success of The Hundred has shown that it is business worth investing in.
But the focus right now needs to be on the core product – the quality of the sport. Ultimately, if we get the product right, the revenue will take care of itself; and while it might not be £1bn a year, it will be real and sustainable.
So let’s stop chasing rainbows; and start chasing balls instead.