Sportswriter Yashas Mudumbai looks at the important numbers highlighting why the 2019 FIFA World Cup is so important.
The World Cup. It’s the pinnacle for anyone in their particular sport and, without a shadow of doubt, it is an experience that a sportsperson will never forget.
For the 24 teams that will step on to the field in France over the next month, the FIFA World Cup not only represents a chance to make themselves heroes, but it is also a chance to elevate women’s sport to whole another realm.
Taking full advantage of the crowd’s supportEmbed from Getty Images
In football, there is an old saying that the fans are like a 12th player on the field. They give the players the leg up they need, if they are down on energy or motivation, and they provide the entertainment if the team is doing well.
They are quite literally the soul of the sport at all times.
Attendances at the matches are expected to break records and are anticipated to continue the upwards graph of popularity for women’s football.
With the final being sold out already at the Stade de Lyon, we will see 59,186 people cheering the players’ every move on that most special of days.
While this will not be the record attendance for a women’s World Cup final – that is still going to be the record of the Rose Bowl in California which hosted a staggering 90,185 spectators in 1999 – it is due to be the largest since then.
So with more people expected to flock to France to view a sporting feast to die for, this World Cup is a huge chance for the game to build on the success of the tournament in Canada four years ago and show everyone how special the sport can be.
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The unprecedented coverage
As time has gone on, the media has also understood the importance and popularity of the beautiful game on the women’s side. More and more broadcasters have dedicated teams at the tournament for in-depth coverage, rather than leaving it to a five-minute segment at the end of the sports bulletin.
For this edition in France, television viewing figures are expected to reach a billion for the first time in its history.
Furthermore, in terms of viewing figures where people will watch at least three minutes of play, the number of unique viewers should go beyond 700 million, which will be a huge increase on the 555.6 million people who watched at least three minutes of the 2015 World Cup on television.Embed from Getty Images
Added to the worldwide figures, women’s football in this country is rightly gaining the traction it so richly deserves.
The first Sunday of the 2018/19 season’s Women’s Super League saw a 78 per cent increase on the average of the first half of the 2015/16 season.
When the Lionesses secured qualification for the World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Wales in August 2018, the match saw viewing figures peak at 1.7 million.
These huge numbers only further signify the interest in the game and should the tournament go well for England, we may see figures that could rival any other sporting event in the world.
It’s not just females interested in women’s football
There can sometimes be a perception that the interest in women’s football comes from women themselves pushing the envelope but, as shown, by a recent study that is not the case.
Rise of Women’s Sport was a report carried out in 2018 by the data analytics company Nielsen and it showed a number of interesting trends about the popularity of women’s sport.
The below infographic shows the figures for interest in women’s sport across the UK, US, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia and New Zealand.
Furthermore, there is a statistic which was particularly fascinating. Of the people surveyed, only seven per cent thought women’s sport is money driven compared to 39 per cent thinking men’s sport is driven by financial desires.
That hints at a sense of relatability with the women’s game that many claim to have lost on the men’s side.
Women’s sport and women’s football is definitely on the minds of everyone – now it is a matter of making the most of the opportunity of a lifetime this summer.
Should the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup be a success both on and off the pitch, which it looks like it will, women’s football may look back at this as the moment everything changed.
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