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The Week in Women's Football: Goteborg receive takeover news; Naomi Osaka invests in NC; Deloitte release 2021 predictions

This week, we have an update on Goteborg FC, who won the 2020 Swedish Damallsvenskan league title for the first time at the end of the 2020 season, and then promptly had their funding pulled by their chairman and main sponsor. They have been taken over by a local area men's side and will continue to field a team next season. We also look at news from the NWSL, with a number of signings of internationals from abroad or Americans who played in Europe. Argentina has replaced Japan in the four team SheBelieves Cup national team tournament in March, hosted by the U.S. Soccer Federation. NWLS expansion side Racing Louisville FC and the Chicago Red Stars will participate in the inaugural International Women's Cup along with two clubs from Europe who will be named later. Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka (23) is investing in the North Carolina Courage women's team. We also examine a Deloitte (Global Business Consultants) TNT Predictions report on women's sports for 2021 entitled: Women's Sports Gets Down to Business: On Track for Rising Monetization.

Goteborg FC is saved, will be folded into BK Hacken's men's organization

This week, we have some more news on Goteborg FC, the reigning Swedish Damallsvenskan champions in 2020 whose funding was yanked late in 2020 by their major sponsor, Kopparbergs brewery's owner Peter Bronsman, which we reported on last month (see: The Week in Women's Football: Interview with Ukraine star Kozlova; Damallsvenskan shock; Spirit visit Qatar - Tribal Football.) Goteborg FC representatives met with local men's side BK Hacken in January to try to join the latter's organization, despite the objection of Hacken's main supporters group. It was thought that if Hacken didn't take over the club, that the decades old women's franchise (founded in 1971—50 years ago) would have to shut down. Hacken has outstanding indoor and outdoor training facilities which were attractive to the women's club. Goteborg had SEK 12.3 Million (1.2 Million Euros) in turnover last season, with about SEK 12 Million (98%) coming from sponsors, and estimates that Kopparbergs supplied half of that sum. The hope would be the other half of the sponsor dollars will continue. The Hacken membership voted on January 27, 2021 with 416 votes for and 35 against, to take over the women's side. The club in the second largest city in Sweden will play the 2021 Damallsvenskan season under the name BK Hacken FF. The new club will take on the continuing player contracts for 2021 and beyond for those players on the 2020 roster. Media in Sweden who follow the league have come to the conclusion that a men's team taking over the club was the end goal that Brosman ultimately wanted—he has had discussions with IFK Goteborg in the past but the top men's side in the city always declined the offer—and shutting down the club late in 2020 was Brosman's way to drive this objective more rapidly. If that is the case, then it worked for him but the damage to the team and the league have yet to be assessed, but we will certainly watch that in the months and years to come. The immediate benchmarks for 2021 will be league table position for the club and home attendance figures compared to the past few years.

With all the turmoil that Brosman caused, the team is expected to be much different with a number of departures for the 2021 season including: American international Emily Sonnet (on loan from Orlando and now with the Washington Spirit), Finnish internationals Natalia Kuikka (off to the Portland Thorns) and Emma Koivisto (ex-Florida State University star who announced on her Instagram account in January of this year that she was leaving the club, but did not say where to next, "It's time to say thank you to Gothenburg FC for three wonderful years."). Others finding new pastures are: Swedish internationals Emma Berglund (defender—32), who signed with Rosengard, and Rebecka Blomquist (forward—23), who joined Wolfsburg of the Frauen Bundesliga

Another Goteborg FC departure is Swedish international midfielder Julia Roddar, who will link up again with Sonnet in Washington, having just signed a two year contract with the Spirit. Washington Spirit head coach Richie Burke said, "Adding another full international to the ranks of our 2021 squad this year was always my intention, and getting someone of the quality of Julia Roddar made that acquisition even sweeter. She is another player who is a serial winner, having finished as champions of the Swedish league last year playing alongside Emily Sonnett for Goteborg/Kopparsburg FC." Roddar (28) actually played collegiately in the States, with the University of Wisconsin in her first year and then finishing at Florida Gulf Coast University, where she started all 62 games and had four goals and 10 assists. Roddar joined Göteborg in 2017 and played 70 matches for the club over three years, scoring seven goals and adding seven assists. Prior to Göteborg, she played four years for Kvarnsvedens IK, appearing in 58 matches, starting 54, contributing three goals and five assists. Roddar is a member of the Swedish National Team and has made seven appearances for the senior team. Most recently, Roddar joined the national team at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France. She also appeared on the U-19 and U-17 national teams where she played in 30 matches, recording five goals.

Other NWSL acquisitions

Angelina leaves Palmeiras for OL Reign

Brazilian youth international Angelina has signed with OL Reign of Tacoma, Washington on a three-year deal from Palmeiras in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where she made 14 appearances in 2020. The midfielder has represented various Brazilian youth national team squads and is the current Brazilian U-20 national team captain. Born in New Jersey, Angelina will not require an international roster slot.

Irish defender Diane Caldwell returns to the States to join the Courage

Republic of Ireland international defender Diane Caldwell has signed a one-year contract with a one-year option with the North Carolina Courage. Caldwell brings 10 years of professional soccer experience to the Courage. The contract is Caldwell's first with a team in the NWSL but she previously played in the States at Hofstra University over a decade ago. Courage head coach Paul Riley said, "Diane has the experience, intelligence, and positional ability to be a great professional in the NWSL. She is a no-nonsense defender with excellent passing range and is a major threat on set pieces. She has the character and determination to be an immediate leader on our team. She is a super passionate professional who will embrace the Courage culture wholeheartedly." The Balbriggan, Ireland native has made 79 appearances with the Republic of Ireland since 2006. She has represented her country in Women's World Cup qualifying and UEFA Women's Euro qualifying, scoring a total of three international goals. As a member of the Courage, she will play alongside PFA Ireland International Player of the Year and Courage midfielder Denise O'Sullivan. Caldwell has been with SC Sand of Germany's Frauen-Bundesligasince 2016, appearing in 107 games and captaining the side.

Ghanaian international Liz Addo returns to the NWSL, joining North Carolina

The North Carolina Courage has also signed Elizabeth Addo to a one-year contract with a one-year option. Addo is the captain of the Ghana Women's National Team and played for the OL Reign (formerly Seattle Reign) during the 2018 season, where she was largely a substitute and had no goals and one assist in 12 regular season matches. Addo joins the Courage from Apollon Limassol where she was on a short-term contract. Before playing for the Cypriot First Division team, she was a member of the Chinese team Jiangsu Suning of the Chinese Women's Super League. The forward helped the team win the league crown, scoring five goals and distributing seven assists in 14 games. Addo made her first senior appearance with Ghana in 2016 after playing 38 games and scoring 17 goals with the U-20 team. In 2019, she was named the Ghana Women's Footballer of the Year. During 2020, the Ghana Women's National Team, captained by Addo, won third place in the Turkish Women's Cup and defeated Morocco in two international friendlies. Addo (27) has a total of 36 appearances and 17 goals at the senior level. She also spent a season in Australia playing on loan with Western Sydney Wanderers before begging the Reign to release her from the second year of her contract so she could sign a lucrative deal with Jaingsu Suning. Before coming to the States, she rose to prominence in the Swedish Damallsvenskan with Kvarnsveden after stints in Hungary and Serbia, where she won consecutive league titles with Ferencvaros and Spartak Subotica, respectively.

Matilda Chloe Logarzo returns to the league with Kansas City

Kansas City NWSL signed Australian international midfielder Chloe Logarzo from FA WSL side Bristol City Women for the 2021 season. Logarzo has 48 Matilda caps, making her debut with the senior team at the age of 18 in 2013. She played in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games Finals and 2019 WWC in France. Logarzo began her professional career as an 18-year-old playing for Sydney FC of the W-League. Over the course of the next four seasons, she made 40 appearances for her hometown club. In 2014 she made her first trip to the United States to play for the USL W-League Colorado Pride, scoring eight goals, contributing seven assists and earning the USL W-League Rookie of the Year award. Following that season, Logarzo made stops with the Newcastle Jets (Australia), Eskilstuna United (Sweden) and Avaldsnes (Norway) before returning to Sydney FC in 2017. From 2017-2020 Logarzo appeared 34 times for Sydney and scored eight goals. She played with the NWSL's Washington Spirit in 2019, with 1 goal and 0 assists in 15 games around Women's World Cup duty and some minor injuries.

Jamaican international Deneisha Blackwood signs with Houston while Tiffany Cameron signs in Hungary

The Houston Dash acquired defender Deneisha Blackwood, a native of Kingston Jamaica, on a one-year contract, with the Dash holding an option for a second season in 2022. Blackwood, 23, spent the 2020 Fall Series with the Orlando Pride, making appearances in all four games and finished with 196 minutes. Before joining the Pride on a short-term contract, Blackwood spent a season with Slavia Prague in the Czech First Division, logging nine appearances. Blackwood returns to Texas after spending two years at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas at the NJCAA (Junior/Community College/two year) level from 2015 to 2016. She scored 36 goals in 32 appearances, earning two-time All-American accolades. Blackwood then transferred to West Florida University in 2017, scoring 13 goals in 31 appearances. At the international level, Blackwood has represented Jamaica since 2011, when she appeared with the Reggae Girlz at the U-17 level. Her senior debut came at the 2018 CONCACAF Women's Championship Qualifiers which qualified Jamaica for the 2019 FIFA World Cup. At the Women's World Cup in 2019, Blackwood played every minute for Jamaica in the team's three games against Australia, Brazil and Italy. She has scored three goals for Jamaica's senior team.

Another Jamaican international, forward Tiffany Cameron (29), has signed for Ferencvaros of Hungary for the 2020/21 season. She grew up in Toronto, played collegiately for Ohio State University and was capped by Canada in 2013 before joining Jamaica in 2019. She played for the Toronto Lady Lynx in the W League and in the NWSL's first season with the Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City before setting off on a journey abroad which included spells in Germany (with 3 different clubs), Cyprus, Israel—where she scored 35 goals in 23 games for Ramat HaSaron in a title winning season—Sweden with Vittsjo, and was recently in Norway with Stabaek in 2019, who were promoted to the Toppserien from the 1 Divison Women after the 2020 season. After her season in Israel, the two Germany teams she played for were both relegated from the Frauen-Bundesliga top tier—Borussia Monchengladbach and Jena.

Phoebe McClernon signs a long-term deal with Orlando after a stint in Sweden

Orlando Pride signed American defender Phoebe McClernon (23) to a two year deal after spending last season with Växjö DFF of Sweden's Damallsvenskan, playing in 12 games. She played collegiately at the University of Virginia and was then selected by the Pride with the No. 14 overall pick at the 2020 NWSL College Draft; she signed a short-term contract prior to the NWSL Challenge Cup. However, due to the team's withdrawal from the competition, she did not appear with the Pride at all last season, playing in Sweden during the four game NWSL Fall Series. McClernon has also been a member of the U.S. Youth National Teams, most recently competing with the U-23's during the 2018 Thorns Spring Invitational.

Portland Thorns goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom Retires From the Game

Portland Thorns FC goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom (27) today announced her retirement. Eckerstrom retires after a five-year NWSL career, including four seasons (2017-20) with the Thorns. Eckerstrom was largely a backup for the Oregon club and in 20 career regular-season matches with the Thorns, registered 71 saves and five shutouts. During the 2020 campaign, Eckerstrom played in six of Portland's 10 matches, with two matches in the Challenge Cup and all four matches during the Fall Series, including an 11-save shutout performance in the quarterfinal round victory of the Challenge Cup on July 17 over the North Carolina Courage. In six total games in 2020, Eckerstrom posted a 0.67 goals-against average, recording 32 saves and a pair of shutouts. A native of Germantown, Maryland, Eckerstrom began her NWSL career with the Western New York Flash in 2016. After helping lead Penn State to a National Championship, Eckerstrom was the first goalkeeper selected in the 2016 NWSL College Draft as the 26th overall selection and played 3 games that season for the surprising 2016 NWSL champions. Eckerstrom also had two loan stints in the Australian W-League with the Newcastle Jets. In 2017-18, Eckerstrom helped lead the club to their first postseason appearance in 10 seasons. She then returned to Australia for the 2018-19 W-League season, starting in all 12 matches, while leading the league in saves (61).

Argentina Replaces Japan at the 2021 SheBelieves Cup

We presented the SheBelieves Cup women's national team lineup two weeks ago but it already has changed (see: The Week in Women's Football: NWSL College Draft; USWNT Florida camp; SheBelievesCup line-up - Tribal Football). Argentina has replaced Japan in the sixth annual SheBelievesCup, which will be staged from February 18 through 24 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla. Argentina now joins host USA, Brazil and Canada. Japan withdrew from the tournament citing the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in their country.

2021 SheBelieves Cup Revised Schedule

Date Matches Stadium City Kickoff (ET)

Feb. 18 Brazil vs. Argentina Exploria Stadium Orlando, Fla. 4 p.m.
Feb. 18 USA vs. Canada Exploria Stadium Orlando, Fla. 7 p.m.
Feb. 21 USA vs. Brazil Exploria Stadium Orlando, Fla. 3 p.m.
Feb. 21 Argentina vs. Canada Exploria Stadium Orlando, Fla. 6 p.m.
Feb. 24 Canada vs. Brazil Exploria Stadium Orlando, Fla. 4 p.m.
Feb. 24 USA vs. Argentina Exploria Stadium Orlando, Fla. 7 p.m.

Racing Louisville will host Chicago Red Stars and Two International Teams in the first International Women's Cup this summer

Louisville will be the stage for global women's soccer action this summer as organizers recently announced the launch of the International Women's Cup, a four-team event that will take place over two days featuring a pair of teams from the UEFA Champions League and two clubs representing the National Women's Soccer League. The event, which is being billed as the first of its kind, is scheduled for Wednesday, August 18 and Saturday, August 21, with all games being hosted at Lynn Family Stadium.

The Cup tournament will open with a NWSL-sanctioned game between Louisville and Chicago Red Stars and will be followed by a second game between the international clubs, who will be announced in the coming weeks. Saturday will feature a gold medal match between Day 1's winners, while the losers will play each other in a consolation game.

This is not the same tournament as what the Courage participated in for two seasons in the summer of 2018 and 2019—the International Champions Cup Women's Tournament—involving the Courage, who won the NWSL title at the end of the 2018 and 2019 season, and top clubs from England, France and Spain (Atletico Madrid in 2019). The Courage won the tournament title in 2018 in Florida and finished second to Olympique Lyon in 2019 at home in Cary, North Carolina.

Japanese Tennis Star Naomi Osaka (23) is investing in the North Carolina Courage women's team.

Naomi Osaka, a three-time grand slam tennis champion (2018 US Open, 2019 Australian Open, 2020 US Open) and the highest paid female athlete in 2020 according to Forbes, is investing in the North Carolina Courage to support women's athletes and because of the club's strong approach to diversity, "The women who have invested in me growing up made me who I am today and I cannot think of where my life would be without them. My investment in the North Carolina Courage is far beyond just being a team owner; it's an investment in amazing women who are role models and leaders in their fields and inspirations to all young female athletes. I also admire everything the Courage does for diversity and equality in the community, which I greatly look forward to supporting and driving forward." Osaka has been a strong spokesperson for social activism, particularly for Black Lives Matter, and is the proud daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother; she was born in Osaka, Japan and competes for the country of her birth. She lives full time in Los Angeles and has been living in the States since she was three years old.

Osaka's investment in the league has gained a large amount of publicity around the world, including time on the popular morning news and entertainment program ABC's Good Morning America. Osaka (23) has a large social media presence, with 1.8 Million followers on Instagram and 825,000 on Twitter, with the Courage's numbers on those two platforms a bare 4% of her numbers. Osaka's involvement should drive additional sponsors to the team. It shouldn't do any harm in trying to attract the best domestic and international talent to the Courage as well.

Women's Sports Gets Down to Business: On Track for Rising Monetization—Deloitte's TMT Predictions for 2021

"Deloitte's [U.K.] TMT Predictions reports have historically required a base level of a billion dollars in revenue before an emerging industry would be considered for inclusion. On this basis, the global women's sports industry (excluding mixed events)—measured by the aggregate of TV rights, sponsorship, and match day (live-event) revenues—is unlikely to qualify in 2021. TV rights and sponsorship deals for most women's sports, where they exist, are worth at most millions of dollars, with the majority below this value. In 2021, we predict women's sports revenues will be well under a billion dollars—a fraction of the global value of all sports (men's, women's, and mixed), which in 2018 reached US$481 billion, an increase of 45% over 2011." (see: Women's sports revenue and monetization | Deloitte Insights)

Deloitte did issue a special report on Women's Sports for 2021—entitled Women's Sports Get Down to Business: On Track for Rising Monetization—as they do expect this sector to hit the billion dollar threshold in the years to come. is particularly interested in Deloitte's take on the sponsorship opportunities for women's teams, leagues and players, which we have discussed in past columns, as well as Deloitte's many examples from women's football in Europe. Deloitte explains, "The fan interest is there: a recent multi-country study found that 66% of people were interested in at least one women's sport, and among sports fans (of whom 49% are female), that figure rises to 84%. And the COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed fundamental reappraisals of many aspects of society, one of which is how women's sports should be perceived, promoted, and commercialized. In short, women's sports are ripe for greater monetization—if certain key elements fall into place. The challenge in 2021 and beyond will be for women's sports to pull in substantial TV and stadium (as permitted) audiences consistently across multiple sports. Then, the value to sponsors will be self-evident, which in turn should raise marketing spend and awareness. But for this to happen, the entire sports industry—spanning federations, leagues, teams, sponsors, and regulators—needs to invest on a sustained basis in creating more opportunities for women's sports to prove its commercial worth.

Our expectation is that women's sports has similar potential for growth, especially as we believe that there is significant untapped interest in watching women's sports. Realizing this potential should drive rising investment in women's teams and sponsorship deals, and this in turn should inspire more girls and women to aspire to compete at the highest levels."

Deloitte explains that sports revenues have three bases: TV rights, game day attendance (for tickets, parking, concessions, souvenirs, etc.) and sponsorships. They cited the following positive examples from women's sports over the past few years:

Women's sports is attracting more and more viewers

• In cricket, the opening game of the 2020 ICC Women's Twenty20 World Cup, in which Australia took on India, was watched in India by an average of 3.6 million viewers, with a total reach of 20 million. In India, the first 12 matches of the tournament generated 41 million viewing hours, a 213% increase over the 2018 figure.

• In rugby, 2.6 million viewers in the United Kingdom watched the final game of the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup. According to Nielsen, 56% of the TV audience for this event was male.

• In netball, 550,000 people in the United Kingdom watched the semifinal of the 2019 Netball World Cup."

Admittedly, the rights values for women's sports are still low and a huge discrepancy between female and male funding levels exists, which the Deloitte report notes, "In the United States, ESPN pays US$25 million for its TV deal with the WNBA. In comparison, the value of the rights for U.S .men's basketball was US$2.6 billion as of 2019." Some positive gains that the report provides TV rights' revenues examples are primarily from football:

• "In the United Kingdom, the BBC reportedly paid 10–12 Million Euros for the rights to the Women's Euro football competition in 2021 (now 2022) being hosted in England, up from the 1 Million Euros that Channel 4 reportedly paid for the 2017 edition.

• Also in the United Kingdom, where BT Sport and the BBC have a three-year deal with the Women's Super League (WSL) football franchise from 2018–2019 to 2020–2021, rights have been awarded on the basis of guaranteed coverage. BT Sport has committed to show 30 live matches per season, while the BBC is showing one live match per week via online or on-demand channels.

• England's Football Association (FA) has appointed a company to manage the next round of rights sales from 2021–2022 onwards, with the expectation that coverage will be in exchange for fees. The FA has also appointed an agency for international sales of the WSL, and announced a three-year rights deal with Sky Mexico and the Scandinavian broadcaster NENT in September 2019.

• In France, Canal Plus and TF1 jointly obtained rights for Euro 2021 at a reported deal value of 13 Million Euros, more than double the 5 Million Euros paid for the prior tournament in 2017.

• In Spain, the Women's Association of Football Clubs (ACFF) announced a three-year deal worth €9 million for the rights to Liga Iberdrola, the Spanish women's football league's first division. Four of the clubs in the ACFF have additional rights to show selected games on their own video platforms.

• Rising rights values are enabling record transfer fees, with Danish footballer Pernille Harder joining England's Chelsea F.C. Women in September 2020 for a record fee of approximately 300,000 Euros."

Stadium attendance at matches is also increasing:

  • "National games are among the most popular for match day attendance. In November 2019, a record 77,868 fans watched England's women's football team lose to Germany at London's Wembley Stadium. This was slightly more than the 77,277 fans who attended the England men's national team match against Montenegro in the same month at the same venue.
  • National women's cricket teams have enjoyed similarly massive one-off attendances. 86,174 fans watched the T20 World Cup final between Australia and India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the largest crowd ever for a women's sports event in Australia.
  • The Women's Six Nations rugby tournament has also been popular among fans. 10,545 people attended the England-Italy match in March 2019. This record was then surpassed a year later, when 10,974 fans watched England vs. Wales. In Ireland in 2019, 6,047 women's rugby fans watched the Irish team play the French, a record for a stand-alone Ireland Women's home game."

Club games also [have] draw[n] significant crowds

  • "In March 2019, 60,739 football fans watched FC Barcelona Femení beat Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid, beating the prior attendance record for a women's fixture of 48,121 at the same stadium. In November 2019, 38,262 football fans attended the women's 'Super Derby' at Tottenham Hotspur between London rivals Spurs and Arsenal.
  • Anfield, Liverpool FC's stadium, drew 23,500 fans to its local derby against Everton, the first-ever WSL match it had hosted."

Sponsorship In its infancy, but on a strong trajectory

  • "As sponsorship interest grows, rights for women's teams are increasingly being sold individually rather than being bundled with the men's team. Indeed, by the time of the next FIFA Women's World Cup in 2023, we expect all women's teams to have at least one sponsorship agreement distinct from the men's teams. Several recent agreements exemplify the growing role of sponsorships in women's sports:
  • In 2018, Visa signed a seven-year deal to become the first-ever sponsor of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) women's football, becoming the main partner of flagship events such as the UEFA Women's Champions League and the UEFA Women's European Championship.
  • In July 2018, Stanley Black & Decker became the Catalan football team FC Barcelona Femení's first shirt sponsor. And more sponsorships have been announced in the two years since.

A Sampling of sponsorships

"2019 and 2020 have seen the announcement of a number of major (particularly relative to previous women's sports deals) sponsorships. In 2019, these included:

• Barclays agreed to become the title sponsor of the FA WSL. The multi-million-pound sponsorship deal was the largest-ever investment in UK women's sports by a brand.

• Budweiser became an official partner to the England Women's football team in 2019, claiming the title of the team's official beer. The company had already been a sponsor of the men's team.

• Boots signed a three-year deal to sponsor the women's national football teams of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland.

• Westfield [Shopping Centers headquartered in Australia] extended its sponsorship of the Matildas, the Australian women's national football team, and the W-League, the premier league for women's football in Australia, by two additional years.

  • Iberdrola, a Spanish energy company, extended its sponsorship of Spain's women's football league for a further six years.
  • In Europe, PepsiCo signed a five-year deal to sponsor UEFA Women's Football. The deal will run alongside PepsiCo's sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League. PepsiCo will be a main partner of the UEFA Women's Champions League, the UEFA Women's EURO, the UEFA European Women's Under-19 and Under-17 Championships, and the UEFA Women's Futsal EURO."

Deloitte's report talked about specific sponsorships in women's football, "We also expect a growing number of women's teams to have multiple sponsors. For example, in January 2020, FC Barcelona Femení added a second sponsor with the announcement of the club's first official street clothing partner, Naulover.

Sponsors are more likely to commit to spending equal amounts on women's teams as men's teams if they are sponsoring both. Adidas, which sponsored six women's teams at the Women's FIFA World Cup in 2019, announced it would offer equal performance bonuses to men's and women's teams."

"Already, we are seeing increased investment in women's teams around the world, often via acquisitions. Valuations are still a fraction of those of men's teams, but the low sums involved may make investments in women's teams more attractive (as a point of market

entry). In 2020, France's Olympique Lyonnais Groupe paid US$3.15 million to acquire an 89.5% stake in NWSL's Seattle-based team [formerly Seattle Reign and now OL Reign in Tacoma, Washington]. Real Madrid launched its women's team in July 2019 by acquiring the existing Madrid-based team CD Tacon for 500,000 Euros. The team, which had been promoted to La Liga Iberdrola, the country's top women's league, in May 2020, will train and play at Real Madrid City.

Acquisitions are not the only source of money flowing into women's teams. Manchester United in the United Kingdom reportedly invested 5.670,000 Million Euros to re-form its women's football team in 2018 after a 13-year absence. The team subsequently ranked as the fourth-best team in England after just two seasons."

The bottom line

Some of Deloitte's recommendations include: "The most important lesson from all this is that women's sports has immense potential value, not just in monetary terms, but also in terms of what it signals for gender parity. For women's sports to fulfill its potential, however, requires action by all interested parties:"

• Broadcasters should continue to invest in women's sports.

"Women's events may be particularly attractive to public service broadcasters in markets where they are no longer able to compete successfully for rights to men's elite sports. There is a vast difference in the cost: Men's events in major countries may cost over a billion dollars per season, while women's events are still often willing to trade coverage for rights."

• Women's teams should slipstream men's teams, but also keep their distance.

Separate sponsorships for a women's team that is connected with a men's organization (i.e. Man U, Portland Thorns) is important for separate identity and to help protect separate funding sources. The days when English teams cancelled their women's teams for budgeting purposes to protect men's teams' budgets (particularly when the latter was relegated) in the days before WSL are still fresh in the mind. The Deloitte report adds, "But women's teams should also make sure that they stand apart when it comes to negotiating sponsorships and TV rights so that that women's sports becomes valued in its own right, and becomes more investable as a result. Sports franchises should hire specialists to sell sponsorship rights—they will have the experience and savvy to maximize value. Further, women's teams should capitalize on the additional flexibility they have on building digital presence and relationships with fans. They are in a position to negotiate contracts that are not as restrictive as for many of the men's teams. Women's teams can build a 1:1 relationship with fans via social media and streaming platforms that may be harder for men's teams, whose primary fan interaction is via broadcast TV." In the U.S., the last two fully professional women's football leagues, the WPS and the NWSL, have always been very attuned and focused on contacting with fans via social media, including the NWSL now live-streaming games on platforms like Twitch.

• Video content creators should consider the value of female athletes' stories.

"There are many epic stories to be told of women who triumph despite adversity. The first woman to run the Boston Marathon, the winning Japanese and US Women's World Cup teams from [2011], 2015 and 2019, and Lindsey Vonn's four skiing World Cup championships are just a few of many fascinating stories, pivoting on a foundation of relentless challenge and striving for excellence."

• Sponsors should capitalize on their amazing opportunity in women's sports.

"Women have significant buying power, and sponsorships can help develop their fondness for brands. Sponsors should also consider that both men and women watch women's sports (as well as the converse); thus, it makes as much sense for male-oriented brands to sponsor women's events as for more female-focused brands. Women's teams should also consider that they have the ability to define how they would like their relationship with sponsors to work. Men's teams have already been in long-term contracts with partners that lock them into specific category definitions, and possibly outmoded notions of how the partnership should work."

• Sports apparel vendors can explore greater involvement in women's sports.

"One retail leader characterized this industry's historical approach: "Sponsoring women's sports may be of particular interest to sports apparel vendors, which earn revenues of about US$80 billion per year, of which women's apparel accounts for about US$27 billion. As one retail leader characterized this industry's historical approach, "I think for a long time, athletic brands said, 'We can just shrink it and pink it and that will be good enough for the female consumers.'" Interestingly, considering its smaller market, women's sports apparel has shown considerable innovation in recent years with the growth of athleisure, which has been designed predominantly for women."

• Sports federations at both the global and national level should set targets for female representation on boards, just as has been the case in the general business world.

"For example, FIFA's goal is for all its member associations to have at least one woman on their executive committee by 2026, and for one-third of FIFA committee members to be women by 2022."

Deloitte's Report concludes, "Change takes time, and it may take a decade, or even a generation, for women's sports to attain its full potential. But its promise of delivering value to sponsors, investors, fans, and athletes and teams themselves is becoming more and more clear. We look forward to a world in which women's sports has a fully equal status with men's, in all respects."

It is imperative for clubs, leagues, player and the media to continue to focus on increasing opportunities for sponsorship within the women's game. I particularly agree with Deloitte's conclusion that women's teams have the ability to be more creative and flexible in developing sponsorships, particularly using women's football vast reservoir of social media followers. I have also seen that women's teams tend to go for traditional women's products (cosmetics, apparel first) and don't even call on companies such as IT, Automotive and other sectors, which could be quite interested in a unique (and lower cost entry to start) with a women football team. There will be a time when Deloitte doesn't have to qualify or justify doing a report on women's sports as it will bring in over $1 Billion in annual revenue.

In a related article, Sports consultant Murray Barnett, a former executive with Formula 1 and World Rugby look at trends for 2021 (See: Murray Barnett | Trends and predictions for 2021 | SportBusiness). Some interesting takes from his article include:

The Importance of Customer Data

"Increasingly customer data is underpinning every commercial decision rights-holders make. This is especially true as direct consumer relationships are becoming more prevalent. All commercial revenues, especially direct-to-consumer plays, require a comprehensive understanding of each consumer. The depth and breadth of required data on every fan/consumer or potential fan/consumer manifests itself in increasing engagement and data mining. The increasing involvement in sports of Google, Amazon and Facebook will help shape how sports organisations acquire and interpret this data."

Women will be (more) equal

"This will be the year for more gender balance in sports. It should not be unusual to have females as coaches or officials. Behind the scenes more and more sports are promoting exceptional female talent to senior leadership or board positions. In vision, the quality and breadth of coverage of female sports should also grow."

'New Media' Sponsorships will Increase

"Having dismissed sponsorship as 'old school', new media companies are increasingly seeing the value of sports sponsorship, albeit with their own twist. They come at the sponsorship business with a data-led perspective and unencumbered with histories in how sports sponsorships should be done. They are more demanding about data and 'business back' opportunities but have realised that sports can deliver scale and passion at almost unparalleled levels."

Tennis – The year of Naomi Osaka

"The Associated Press' 2020 Female Athlete of the Year will be front and center, everywhere. Her activism as well as ability (and possibly Tokyo 2020) will propel her into the upper echelons of sports stars. She has already picked up Louis Vuitton, Tag Heuer and Workday as new partners in early 2021. She will be the next global superstar. See more above on Osaka's recent investment in the North Carolina Courage of the NWSL).

Barnett makes a good point on the growing importance of data-driven decisions. We are seeing more analytics used for sports business decisions (scouting, etc.) but it is also key for showing prospective sponsors the value of their new sponsorship and also during the engagement to help evaluate the return on investment. Market research will have a growing influence on the sports sponsorship business and can be an important asset for women's football league's, teams and players in their presentations to businesses. This is a topic that we will come back to in the months to come.

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

Tim Grainey
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Tim Grainey

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