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Canada 2015 WC

Women’s football seizes the moment on a global stage with final game watched by TV audience of 23 million in US, the record for any live game of “soccer” in the country

by Tom Walker, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 2015 issue 3
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue
The FIFA Women’s World Cup generated unprecedented interest in women’s football, with games beamed live to more than 100 countries
The FIFA Women’s World Cup generated unprecedented interest in women’s football, with games beamed live to more than 100 countries

This year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup created unprecedented interest for live coverage across the world – partly thanks to a new rights deals brokered by FIFA. The live games attracted peak audiences of up to 23 million in the US, while in many countries – such as the UK and Australia – all 52 matches were aired live. The interest in the games was accompanied by a social media avalanche – during the world cup month, tweets with the tournament’s hashtag #FIFAWWC were viewed more than 9 billion times.

Speaking at the tournament’s closing press conference, Lydia Nsekera, chair of the Committee for Women’s Football and the FIFA Women’s World Cup, said the 2015 event was a watershed for the women’s game.

“I said at the opening press conference that every Women’s World Cup is an opportunity to show as many people as possible how our game has improved,” Nsekera said. “I’m delighted to confirm, a month later, that the seventh edition of the tournament has been a roaring success.”

Nsekera warned, however, that there was no time for complacency and the effects should be put to good use. “30 million women play football worldwide and we must strive to increase the number. We need this motivational atmosphere to lead to tangible and long-lasting decisions.

“Football must continue to be the number one team sport in the world,” she said. “Participation levels still need to improve, and we need to stimulate discussion and action on topics such as governance, structures, competitions, commercial development, promotion, media coverage and sponsorship.”

The event was a commercial success too. Peter Montopoli, general secretary of Canada Soccer and CEO of the organising committee, confirmed the event had met its targets. “In terms of ticketing, we attracted 1.35 million fans, the highest for a FIFA event outside the men’s World Cup.”

PIONEERING
The tournament was also important from a technical point of view. Goal-line technology was used for the first time in a major women’s tournament, but the most controversial technical decision was to play all games on artificial turf.

Prior to the tournament, 50 top women players threatened legal action if matches were not played on natural grass. The group accused FIFA and the organising committee of “discrimination”. The threats were, however, dropped by lawyers shortly before the tournament.

As it turned out, the surfaces helped produce the most memorable Women’s World Cup of all time, as Eric O’Donnell, managing director of sports surface development and testing company Sports Labs, points out. Sports Labs was appointed to test the playing surfaces and verify the accuracy of the goal line technology at all six World Cup venues.

“Now that the legends have been created and the dust settled on an incredibly successful Women’s World Cup in Canada, it is a good time to reflect,” O’Donnell said.

“There has been universal acceptance by teams and officials that the playing surfaces presented to the players throughout the tournament were excellent. There were no injuries directly attributed to the pitches and no game was decided due to the condition of the playing surface.

“The surface went from being the story to being part of the success story. It is the latest phase in the rise in status of artificial turf on the global stage.”

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