3 min read

Football Lacking In Gender Diversity In Boards, Sponsorship And Marketing


A new report from Fair Game, a collection of 34 clubs across the English football pyramid supported by more than 40 experts and politicians, released on International Women’s Day, has outlined major issues with gender diversity and equality across English football.

A major finding of the report is the lacking representation of women on football boards, with 11.1% of board members at Premier League clubs being women, 4.2% of board members in the Championship being women, and fitting within that range for boards across the remainder of the football pyramid.

Notably, 66% of clubs in the English football pyramid don’t have any women on their boards, with Fair Game suggesting diversity on boards is linked with higher financial performance and value across multiple countries, as well as having a positive effect on corporate governance, risk management, decision-making, and workplace culture.

Outside of board diversity, the report identified a range of fields of opportunity for growth for English football clubs and leagues, including broadcasting and visibility, fans, communication, women’s football, participation and talent development, marketing and sponsorship, and community and merchandise.

Focusing on the marketing and sponsorship aspect, the report identified in 2020, less than US$1 billion of the total US$57 billion spent on sports sponsorship was on women’s sport, despite the number of women’s sponsorships increasing by 47% from 2013 to 2017.

The report suggested English football clubs are currently failing to effectively market to the matching audience of women fans, with women making up 30% of Premier League fans who watch the competition on TV or online.

Fair Game suggested sporting clubs have an untapped potential to market their communications more directly to women, both fans and non-fans, due to consumer decision making insights which suggest in the US alone, women make 80% of all sports clothing purchases.

Recommending actions for sporting clubs both in England and beyond, Durham University associate professor and co-author of the report, Dr Stacey Pope, said: “Public attitudes towards sexism and misogyny are changing, and football needs to change too.”

“Clubs need to create an environment that is safe, welcoming and inclusive for all women.

“Economically, the current situation in football is also hugely naive.

“Such an outdated stance makes reaching the holy grail of financial sustainability even more difficult to achieve and is even more reason for change,” Dr Pope said.

Fair Game director, Niall Couper, in the foreword of the report, said: “Gender diversity in football is often seen as an add-on, a burden, a cost.”

“But today is International Women’s Day.

“And we at Fair Game decided to celebrate the benefits of gender diversity in football.

“Fair Game’s values are those of sustainability, integrity, and community.

“51% of communities are made up of women.

“Financial sustainability depends on engaging with all current and future fans.

“And integrity comes from actions, not words.

“And so we are launching this report.

“Football becoming more gender-inclusive is not just morally and socially right – it is also commercially beneficial,” Couper said.

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