A Yonder Whitepaper series


Hold the spotlight

Throughout 2021, some 32.9 million viewers tuned into domestic women’s sport, surpassing the standing record of 32.8 million in 2019 – the last time the FIFA Women’s World Cup was staged – and 26.9 million in 2020, when in-person crowds were frustrated by the pandemic and fans turned to the screens instead. The 2021 Visibility Uncovered review from the Women’s Sport Trust (WST) and Future Sport and Entertainment attributed this spectator growth to changes to traditional competition formats perceived as unappealingly long or difficult to follow. In particular, ‘The Hundred’ and the FA Women’s Super League (WSL) were perceived as more ‘viewer-friendly’ than traditional formats. Together these match features were reported to attract almost 11 million new viewers to women’s sport.

Beyond these technical adjustments, the past four years have seen a surge in the number of high-profile women’s wins and media coverage attached to them; developments which point towards a prospering women’s sports scene. However, as Yonder’s research has found, this progress remains largely among viewers. Participation rates have not increased to the same degree and, in some cases, continue to suffer.

The Lionesses’ victory at the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 tournament consumed headlines last year, yet, according to Yonder data, women’s participation in football continues to decline. Indeed, the percentage of female football players has decreased by 4% since 2019. Likewise, Emma Raducanu’s 2021 US Open triumph may have ended Britain’s 44-year wait for a female Grand Slam champion – and earned her a much coveted BBC Sports Personality award – but this was not enough to curb female underrepresentation on the tennis court. From 2019-2023, Yonder recorded an 8% drop in the number of women picking up a racket at least once a month.

Let's talk about you.