Just over a month before the start of the FIFA Women's World Cup, which will be held in France this summer, indications continue to prove that the women's sport is on the rise all over the world.
Much talk has surrounded women in sports, especially football, and the significant pay gap that separates them from the men. Closer to home, contractual negations continue to be a nagging problem between the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and the Reggae Girlz football team and staff. Many have alluded to the fact that the woman's version of the sport is not as recognized as its male counterpart, which would cause them to receive less funding in comparison. However, recent numbers have shown that women's football continues to rise in viewership all over the world, signaling a need for more conversations to be had about the disparity in treatments between the two sexes.
In March of 2019, the world record for the number of fans to watch a women's football team was shattered, when 60,739 supporters turned out to watch Atletico Madrid take on Barcelona in the Spanish capital. This attendance surpassed the previous world record which was set when 48,121 patrons turned out to witness the Spanish Copa Del Rey match between Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid back in January of this year.
Over in Italy, the league also experienced a boost of its own, seeing the previous attendance record of 14,000 spectators completely annihilated in a game between league leaders Juventus and second place Fiorentina which saw 39,027 people turning out.
The sport is also experiencing wins off the field as well, as data shows that sponsorship deals in women's football have significantly increased. According to a report from Nielson Sport (2018), sponsorship deals have increased by 37 per cent, and their average monetary value by 49 per cent, between 2013 and 2017. The report also stated that 84 per cent of general sports fans are interested in women's sports, being 51% of them male and 49% women.
In Jamaica, we have our own struggles as a nation with giving women in sport the recognition they deserve. However, significant interest has increased since the announcement that the Reggae Girlz qualified for the World Cup. Having one of the most globally recognized strikers of 2018 also helps to increase recognition as well, as Khadija “Bunny” Shaw has created a tremendous buzz here on the island. Many fans will look to her as the inspiration that will ensure Jamaica enjoys a successful World Cup at this year's competition.
Perhaps a successful run for the Reggae Girlz will contribute to a permanent spike in interest among Jamaicans. But what is definitely for sure is that the rise of the women's game has not gone unnoticed and many believe this is just the beginning. It is evident that the women are finally getting the recognition they deserve.