The announcement that viewing figures for the Women’s World Cup hit 1.12 billion is hugely impressive and raises vital questions about how we measure the success of the women’s game versus the men’s.
If you put to one side the massive exception of the USA women’s national team generating more income than their male counterparts yet being paid less (which hints at this being more ideological than financial), then the argument against equal World Cup prize money and funding is that, generally, the men’s game generates more income that the women’s. Except this is never quantified. Because sponsorship rights and broadcast rights (which make up the majority of money generated) for both the men’s and women’s premier competitions are bundled and sold together, it is impossible.
The assumption is that these big-money deals are sold overwhelmingly on the basis of the men’s World Cup. But this can only ever be an assumption when rights are bundled together. (Uefa, meanwhile, has unbundled the rights for its women’s competitions – the European Championship and Champions League.)
However, if you look at the $30m (£23m) prize pot for the 2019 Women’s World Cup (double what it was for the 2015 edition) and the $400m prize pot for the 2018 men’s World Cup, it is clear that we are putting separate values on the two competitions. Somewhere it has been decided that the women’s tournament is worth 7.5% of the men’s.
Why begin with the 1.12 billion viewers of the Women’s World Cup in this context? Because it offers a concrete measurement of the interest in the women’s competition that we can compare to the men’s. The 2018 men’s World Cup pulled in a huge 3.572 billion viewers. The figure for the Women’s World Cup is 31% of the number that watched the men’s.
So, in the absence of unbundled rights, why do we not use that figure to determine the women’s share? Why do we instead get another token “doubling” of the prize pot or investments when the numbers are so low?
Hey, we’re all for quantification around here. So, let’s unbundle the rights and see what they sell for. We then have what amount of money the women’s game actually creates and that can be used to pay for the women’s game.
As a guide, well, what is the price difference between the men’s and women’s UEFA broadcasting rights?