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What 2022’s record-breaking women’s sport viewership means for the future

It’s been a monumental year for women in sport (Image: Christophe Bayle/Metro.co.uk)

2022 was overflowing with defining moments in women’s history.

At Wembley, the Lionesses roared to victory at the Euros – sparking a wave of renewed interest in the Women’s Super League.

At Hampden, Ireland defeated Scotland to make it to the World Cup for the first time.

And it wasn’t just football that saw a surge in support.

Women’s boxing reached new heights thanks to Ireland’s Katie Taylor’s KO performance against Amanda Serrano in New York.

England’s women’s cricket team, meanwhile, enjoyed a record-breaking year, as did the Red Roses in rugby.

New research has revealed how the visual figures themselves were spectacularly shattered.

Chloe Kelly’s winning goal in the EURO final and the celebration that followed made history (Image: PA)

A new report from the Women’s Sport Trust shows that the average viewer watched 8 hours 44 minutes of women’s sport in 2022, compared with 3 hours 47 minutes in 2021.

Women’s sport attracted more viewers than Strictly Come Dancing, I’m a Celebrity and The Great British Bake Off.

The Women’s Sport Trust’s Tammy Parlor was in the stands at Wembley as thousands erupted as Chloe Kelly scored the winning goal for the Lionesses.

After a decade of fighting for the growth of women’s sport, it was an emotional moment to see the magnitude of the finals.

Tammy told Metro.co.uk: “It really reflected the deeper engagement that fans have and the role that broadcasters play in making it more visible. So let’s bring more, I say.

“When we look at women’s sport, we often compare it to men’s sport. But really, it’s entertainment — so let’s look at other other entertainment properties and see how it fares.

“Essentially visibility is important, you can’t watch women’s sport if it’s not running. The demand is there, that has now been proven.

“What we need now is a cross-platform approach to maintain this momentum. It’s not just about broadcasters either, it’s about print media, TV sports news – every part of this ecosystem around women’s sport.

“Scheduling is a challenge, there’s a busy marketplace and it’s still difficult to find the best time to air that also suits the people in the stands. So there is a way to go.

“But research like this is so important to industry because it provides data that has never been available before. Decision makers are coming to the table and I want to keep driving the momentum to attract more and more people to women’s sport.’

Ireland’s Katie Taylor of Ireland went from strength to strength in 2022 (Image: Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Another exciting year is ahead of women’s sport.

There is an endless list of events to look forward to – like the T20 World Cup in South Africa, Twickenham, host of the Red Roses’ first standalone game, the Netball World Cup, the Solheim Cup.

Pressure is now mounting on broadcasters to meet demand as thousands of new viewers seek opportunities to see their teams in action.

For broadcaster Shebahn Aherne, on a cold south London night in March, she had a feeling something was about to change.

Manchester City beat Chelsea 3-1 with x people watching.

(Image: Women’s Sports Trust)

She told Metro.co.uk: “I was at the Conti Cup final last year and covered it for Talk Sport. I had looked around and just thought: “This is full, this is different.” Every seat was taken. I was with Lianne Sanderson and even she was blown away by the size, we had never seen anything like it.

“I remember looking at Ellen White and seeing her celebrate too, even for experienced players like her the level of support was new.”

Shebahn continued to cover the Euros and covered so many games that she started counting.

But racing up and down the M1 to cover the events was a ‘joy’ that wouldn’t have changed it for the world, and it quickly became apparent that the variety of possibilities was no longer novelty – but fast became the norm.

Shebahn said: “I loved the Euros, every single day of it. A highlight was Portugal versus Iceland and it was very special to see so many mothers in the Iceland squad with their children at the end of the game.

“During the tournament I was able to do what I love every day, talk about women in football. It was crazy, the phone didn’t stop.’

“Sometimes there are outlets or broadcasters that aren’t prepared, they’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll see how it goes,’ but that showed how important it was to have the coverage from the start.”

Questions remain as to how the Women’s World Cup, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand, will be held given the time difference.

Ireland captain Katie McCabe will open the tournament against Australia at the Accor Stadium with a crowd of 82,000.

For broadcasters moving into the future, scheduling still remains a major issue for games. Women’s sport must be broadcast at times that are accessible to the fans in attendance, but also to viewers at home.

Arsenal’s Katie McCabe will captain Ireland in the opening of this year’s Women’s World Cup (Image: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

evening games such as 7.45pm kick-off in football, means children – who may be inspired to attend – cannot go.

The latest research by the Women’s Sport Trust has shown broadcasters for the first time that good slots are worth the investment.

The proof is in both the cutlery and the viewership.

Tammy said: “When you see these numbers comparing women’s sport to the likes of Bake Off and I’m a Celebrity, it’s just extraordinary.

“Three things struck me about the data.

New data allows us to analyze the reach of women’s sport for the first time (Image: Women’s Sport Trust)

“The first was the average viewing time. The time people spend in women’s sport has increased by 131% compared to last year.

“In 2021, people watched women’s sports for an average of three hours and 47 minutes. In 2022, that became 8 hours and 44 minutes — a huge improvement.

“Secondly, we often talk about the highs and highs and lows of women’s sport. But we’re trying to show that there’s a consistent interest, the Women’s Super League and domestic sport as a whole have played a big part in that.

“Thirdly, we have always had a gut feeling that there is an inque audience for women’s sport and this report has highlighted that.

“One statistic that has garnered a lot of attention is that 1.8 million people watched the Women’s Championship – but not the World Cup.”

Anya Shrubsole and Charlie Dean celebrate their victory in the 2022 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and England (Photo: Fiona Goodall-ICC/Getty Images)

In the future, women’s sport will only grow. There were questions and debates about equal pay and stadium access and broadcasting opportunities.

For 2023, the message is simply “more, more, more”.

Shebahn added, “I love seeing the big audience. After the games I can’t wait to see the Sky viewership figures, the BBC stats – everything.

“We want to see more of that now. We want people to enjoy being part of women’s sport and not question why it’s even happening or why they use ‘men’s stadiums’.

“It’s the sport that people love, so gender shouldn’t be an issue.

“There are so many opportunities out there now – and we have to take advantage of them.”

To find out more about the new dates from the Women’s Sport Trust, click here.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

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