Monday, April 22, 2019 | ePaper
Women footballers find the world is finally watching
During the first Women's World Cup in 1991, only fans in host nation China could watch games on television. This year's edition in France will be shown live in more than 200 countries.
FIFA, the governing body of world football, is aiming for a global audience of one billion for the 24-team women's football showcase that runs from June 7 to July 7.
The competition can help women's football emerge from the shadow of the men's game, particularly in Jamaica and South Africa, who have qualified for the first time.
In some countries, particularly where the national team excels, women's football has been more and more visible on TV with more and more women working as analysts and commentators. Audiences have been growing too.
In the United States, three-time world champions and four-times Olympic gold medallists, the biggest TV audience to view a football match was 27 million who tuned in for the 2015 World Cup final win over Japan, played in a convenient time zone in Vancouver, Canada.
In Japan, who won the 2011 World Cup and lost the 2012 London Olympics final, both against the United States, a women's match at the London Games drew a 30 percent share of the TV audience.
"There is a tradition of sport on TV that has been expressed through men's sport," said Laurent-Eric Le Lay, director of sports at France Television, one of the host broadcasters for the upcoming World Cup.
However, in France, advertising slots during women's matches shown on prime-time cost as little as half those shown during men's World Cup games.
"Women's football developed later. Maybe one day the trend will be reversed," explained Le Lay.
Attention is increasing though, and that is both a product of the rising level of the women's game and a stimulus to the rising level.
With standards being raised across the board, competition is improving all the time.
"The sporting show is of interest, a priori, only when there is a real opposition", said Yann Imine, a professor at Paris-Sud University where he specialises in the development of women's football.