Location: Cheshunt FC
Event: Matchday 5 Spurs Ladies VS Doncaster Belles
The international break in football is usually a source of panic and discontent as club football is interrupted and leaves fans in worry that their favourite team’s star player might get injured. The recent international break presented me with a fantastic opportunity, to attend a FAWSL match, my first official women’s football match.
The first feeling you sense at the ground (can’t really call it a stadium) is a sense of purity. It is far less commercial than top men’s football. At the moment the commercialism issue may act as a plus but also prevents the game from progressing.
Let’s have a quick Q&A to help readers who are not familiar with the FAWSL and the women’s game:
Is it broadcasted? BT Sport holds the rights. This specific game was recorded for the use of highlights
Are the players fully professional? Not all, some are semi-professional.
Time for the overview. The overview focuses on issues related to Spurs Ladies for certain reasons.
- First impression: As was mentioned earlier it has hard to call the place the match was held a stadium. Today in modern sports venues one of the main discussion point from a fan engagement and sponsorship activation issues is being in contact with the fans at all touchpoints i.e. public transport, façade, fan zone etc. The location and the quality of the venue make it difficult to utilise available space. Once in the parking area banners of the FAWSL and Spurs Ladies were evident.
- Ticketing: In the week building up to the match I monitored the social media accounts of Spurs Ladies and it was promoted that an online purchase awards a discount on adult and concessions price than buying on the spot.
- Activities agenda (main fan engagement): As part of my monitoring, a day before the match a full activities list was released for pre-match, half time and full time. See photo below for the available activities.
- Match programme: I did not expect a match program to be available for sale. With the evolution of digital, some football clubs shifted their matchday programme to an online version. Actually, the matchday programme has proven to be beneficial not only in terms of revenue but fans used it as a platform to collect players autographs. Due to the mixed audience of kids, teens adults and senior, some of which do not engage online at the physical programme is still valuable for them.
- Sponsorship assets: No LED boards or giant screen here. The fence that surrounds the pitch was not fully covered with metal boards which leaves space for new sponsors to come in and try to raise awareness for its brand. The boards that were used displayed sponsors of the league, Cheshunt FC and the only Spurs content was a promotion of the club’s official store. At the moment the Spurs Ladies kit is identical to the men’s. In the future, it is certainly an asset that can be used to drive more sponsors to get involved. True, with a crowd of 400 it is hard to draw sponsors but it does not mean there is no value within this small crowd.
- Branded content: The Spurs Ladies social media team can use its content as a leverage to draw in commercial revenue. The low attendance that was discussed earlier can grow into a much larger online community through shareable and branded content.
- Food/Drink: At the moment the only offering is the club’s bar. There’s plenty of space to establish different food stalls to increase the variety of products to the fans. Whether it is something that the club’s bar is reluctant of due to loss of potential revenue it can be overcome by revenue sharing models.
- Merchandise: There was no official club merchandise available. A small stall of merchandise which exists at Wembley stadium in certain areas can be set up here too. Plus, if it is possible to include on the spot printing I would expect it would increase shirts with the player’s name on the back.
- Space, Space, Space: Due to the fact there are no huge terraces around the ground leaves it with space, especially where the main seating and socialising area is. I would encourage artists to come and showcase their skills to entertain fans before the match. It can be singing, performing or anything that fits. It will also help the parents have some kids-free
To conclude, at the moment women’s football is in kind of a loop. It begins with awareness; the more people are aware the more interest it will raise. More interest will lead to more attendance. More attendance will draw the attention of brands. Brands will lead to more commercial revenue and will make the broadcast more prestigious hence more TV money.
I did talk about the sense of purity at the start but as was proven by the latest UEFA Women’s Euro tournament, it still seems to remain at the top level. The issues of equal pay and players not being able to make a living out of simply playing football cannot be ignored, but in order for wages to increase or until it increases, the commercial route is the one to utilise in order to improve the sustainability of the game.