The State of Women's Football 2020

December 2020

This report analyses the state of women’s football in 2020 and its potential for further development in the light of and beyond the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The report looks at historic issues negatively affecting women’s football, and analyses the expanding digital footprint and the commercial attractiveness of women’s football in what remains a challenging environment.

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Key Findings

Systemic issues affecting the development of women’s football are further highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic

A lack of professional labour standards and fair financial compensation has left female players even more vulnerable during the pandemic, further affecting women’s participation in football and the potential growth of the women’s game in the future. From lack of support within clubs to cancelled seasons and postponed international events, the women’s football community has encountered significant challenges.

Insufficient media coverage of women’s football further affects its visibility and marketability

Access is key to the growth of women’s football, and broadcasters have played a major role in increasing awareness of women’s football over the last couple of years. The gap between men’s and women’s sports coverage, however, became even more pronounced during the pandemic, with attention being focused on the top men’s sports. Cancelled women’s football seasons meant less visibility and more pressure on deals with broadcasters and sponsors.

Positive signs of women’s football’s return in 2020 have been observed

The top women’s football leagues in the US and the UK have signed new broadcasting and streaming deals in 2020, expanding their reach both domestically and internationally. Upon its return in 2020, the US National Women’s Soccer League attracted record viewership numbers while UK’s FA Women’s Super League registered double-digit growth in social media following demonstrating fans’ growing interest in women’s game.

Women’s football offers new sponsorship opportunities during times of uncertainty

Growth in the number of sponsorships has been observed among the top women’s football leagues in 2020, as unbundling of sponsorship rights from the men’s game is increasing and some flagship sponsorships have been signed in 2020. Business services and construction/real estate companies are especially active in this space, using partnerships to showcase support for women's football while addressing broader gender equality issues within their respective industries.

Scope of the Report



Key findings

Systemic Issues Hampering the Development of Women’s Football

Disparities in payments and labour standards
World-class female players still fail to achieve equal treatment to men
The World Cup has become a platform to address equality issues
Despite the efforts, the gender pay gap keeps widening
US female players at the forefront of the wage gap debate
Levelling the playing field

Media Coverage and the Potential of Digital

Media coverage needs to catch up with fans’ growing interest
Positive signs of return of women’s football
NWSL is breaking domestic TV viewership records
Digital helping to grow women’s football

Social Media Footprint and Player Influence

Social media footprint: Western Europe
Social media footprint: UK
Social media footprint: Germany
Social media footprint: US
Power of female star footballers
Challenging the status quo on and off the pitch
From football pitch to apparel and footwear industry
Angel City FC: a women-backed women’s football club in Los Angeles

Commercial Landscape and Opportunities

Women’s football sponsorship landscape
Changing tide in women’s football sponsorship strategy
Flagship sponsorships in women’s football in 2020
Notable deals signed in women’s football during COVID-19 pandemic
Sweden: Damallsvenskan’s commercial snapshot
Germany: Frauen Bundesliga’s commercial snapshot
UK: FA Women's Super League’s commercial snapshot
US: National Women's Soccer League’s commercial snapshot
Catering to changing consumer preferences
Values and consumerism
The power of female consumers

Looking Towards the Future

Why sponsoring women’s football is attractive during COVID-19
Looking towards the future
Making up-front investments and betting on the future


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