On the 23rd of April, FC Barcelona’s women’s team (FCB Femeni) broke global attendance records for women’s football. The team had 91,648 in attendance in their match against Wolfsburg at Camp Nou’s home stadium. This was the first leg of their UEFA semi-finals championship, defeating Wolfsburg 5-1.
The attendance record, previously held by the El Clasico between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid’s female sides, had 91,553 fans in attendance. The previous record was held for twenty-two years in the World Cup final between China and the United States of America in 1999 which had 90,185 people in attendance.
With the UEFA Women’s European Championship beginning on 6 July 2022 and Australia and New Zealand hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup, these records are reflective of the progress and investment in women’s football. However, this progress required overcoming historical and social inequities which have minimised support for professional women’s football. In the early 20th century, women’s football in the United Kingdom was on the rise with over 150 women’s teams with crowd attendance in parallel to their male counterparts. In 1921, the Football Association banned women’s football after it broke what is believed to be at the time, the largest attendance to a football match in English history before formal records began with 53,000 fans attending. For the next 50 years, women’s football was banned, reducing the support it had historically garnered.
In more recent years, the US women’s team, which has won the World Cup four times in 2022, reached a $33 million settlement with the national football body, US Soccer, after suing for unlawful discrimination. The women’s team has consistently brought in more revenue for US Soccer than their male counterparts, who have never won the tournament.
This rise in popularity has continued with the Italian Football Federation approving new regulations for Italian women’s teams in the Series A to be considered professionals, rather than amateur players. This removes the salary cap, which previously stood at 30,000 euros (44,465 AUD) annually.
With this continued momentum, the following recommendations from Parry et al. (2021) will assist in dismantling some of the inequities currently in football:
• Ensure within football bodies, especially in women’s sports women are also represented in roles of governance with the interest of women’s sports being prioritised;
• Greater female commentators and interviewers;
• More marketing to the quality and degree to that of male sports;
• Primetime scheduling of female football matches and;
• Free-to-air coverage of women’s football.
FCB Femini will play Wolfsburg in their second leg on 1st May with kick-off at 2:00 AM AEST on DAZN.