Two clicks take you to FIFA’s French e-store for the Women’s World Cup that has got fully under way for the eighth time this weekend following Friday’s 4-0 walloping of South Korea by a host team set on replicating the victory of their men in Russia last year.
Courtesy of Amazon Prime, you can bring it all to your door – official FIFA WWC France 2019 t-shirts, official mugs, pyjama sets, a kid's handbook, a replica trophy, a magnetic board to keep up to date with a schedule that involves 24 teams playing across nine French cities… and you have to pay with Visa.
Visa is one of seven global sponsors of the Women’s World Cup, along with adidas, Hyundai, Coca-Cola, Wanda, KIA and Qatar Airways.
The Women’s Football Report by United States-based data company Neilsen has drawn on research in 24 countries ahead of a tournament that it estimates will be the “biggest yet... by almost any measure”.
The report estimates that around 314 million people globally are interested in women’s football. According to Neilsen, the prize money for the Women’s World Cup has doubled since the last tournament in 2015, from $15 million (£11.7million/€13.2milliion) in 2015 to $30 million (£23.5million/€26.4million).
The winning team at Parc Olympique Lyonnais on July 7 will receive $4 million (£3.1million/€3.5million).
Let’s not get carried away here. In comparison, when France won the men's World Cup last year they brought home $38 (£30million/€33.5million)million from a prize pool of $400 million (£314million/€353million).
That said, doubling your money in the space of four years is a startling statistic as far as women’s football is concerned.
There have also been a number of high-profile women’s football sponsorship deals in recent months, including Barclays' £10 million ($12.7million/€11.2milliion) commitment to the Women’s Super League and Visa’s seven-year sponsorship agreement with UEFA’s women’s events.
In a debate coordinated last week by the Daily Telegraph women’s sports editor, Anna Kessel, there was a telling insight from Stephen Day, Visa’s European sponsorship director.
“We’re investing as much in women’s football, in Europe, as we did in the men’s World Cup last year,” Day said.
“Because the Visa brand – and it does come down to brand – is about inclusion, it’s an obvious thing for us to do.
“When we looked at our plans for the World Cup, we could see the vicious cycle – not enough investment or coverage. We saw we could make a difference by investing substantially to try to break that cycle.
“It was a no-brainer. It might not pay back in terms of ROI (return on investment) immediately, but we’ve invested for the long term.”
The long term is looking very promising for the Women’s World Cup. Many knowledgeable observers hope the latest edition could see an exponential shift – in the manner of Captain James T Kirk shifting the USS Enterprise to warp speed…
The burgeoning state of global sponsorship is mirrored in terms of national sponsors, among whom are numbered Proman, Orange, Crédit Agricole, EDF, SNCF, Living Football and Arkema, as compiled by Front Office Sports.
Defending champions United States are laden with so many sponsors, you fear for them if they have to carry the full weight of emblems on their shirts. Those backing the quest for a record fourth Women's World Cup win include Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Continental, Cutter, Hisense, Johnson & Johnson, Powerade, Secret, TagHeuer, Thorne, Volpi, Volkswagen and AT&T.
Germany, meanwhile, winners in 2003 and 2007, have sponsor deals with Samsung, T-Mobile, SAP, Commerzbank, Volkswagen, Coca-Cola, BWIN and Rewe.
The hosts count on support from PMU, Volkswagen, Crédit Agricole, EDF and Orange.
England, energised under the managership of former Manchester United and England defender Phil Neville, carry sponsorship from Continental Tires, Head and Shoulders, Budweiser, Boots and Lucozade.
And last week the England men’s and women’s teams signed a five-year deal thought to be worth between £50 and £60 million ($63.7-76.5million/€56million-€67.4million) as British Telecom filled the gap as lead sponsor that had existed since last year’s expiry of the deal with car manufacturer Vauxhall.
In terms of commercial endorsements, Germany and England top the table among the 24 teams at the latest Women’s World Cup, according to Sportcal, a GlobalData company.
Germany are generating $110m (£86.3million/€97million) and England $100m (£78.5million/€88milliion) from commercial endorsements from the Women’s World Cup in 2019.
According to Sportcal’s latest data report, “FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019”, a successful World Cup could see this figure increase as much as 25 per cent over the next 12 months into 2020.
Conrad Wiacek, head of sponsorship at Sportcal, said: “While the tournament’s Organising Committee has filled its quota of domestic partners, something the organisers for the men’s World Cup in Russia in 2018 couldn’t manage, we are seeing an unprecedented level of support for the women’s game which would have been unthinkable even two years ago.
“With brands signing partnership deals to specifically cover female sides as opposed to joint deals with the men’s teams, as retailer Boots has done with the England side, women’s football stands on the cusp of a breakthrough.”
With more than 200 brands spending more than $678m (£532milllion/€598million) in promoting their brands to a new audience, alongside greater coverage of the tournament than ever before, the Women’s World Cup 2019, Sportcal suggests, will be seen as a “watershed moment” in years to come.
Meanwhile, television viewing figures, recorded and projected, also point to a great leap forward taking place for the women’s game.
The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada attracted more than 760 million television viewers, according to FIFA. This year, football’s world governing body is predicting a figure of one billion.
FIFA’s coverage includes a standard 24-camera plan providing a view of all the action and atmosphere in each of the nine stadiums used for the tournament.
Outside the games themselves, FIFA TV is providing broadcasters with around 1,700 hours of non-live content related to the World Cup.
As a point of comparison, according to FIFA figures more than 3.5 billion viewers engaged with some part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, and France’s victory over Croatia in the final was seen in more than 500 million homes globally.
So, in basic terms, the last World Cup was watched in some part by around half the world’s population aged four and over.
The global in-home TV audience watching at least one minute of coverage totalled 3.262 billion. A further estimated 309.7 million people watched no coverage in their homes, but caught the action on digital platforms, including public viewing areas or in bars and restaurants, boosting the total audience by 9.5 per cent.
These, though, are figures for what is arguably the premier sporting event in the world, which has been a quadrennial entity in the calendar since 1930.
The women’s version of the FIFA World Cup already has its own badges of honour in terms of TV popularity.
Most startling is the statistic regarding the television ratings during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup final between the United States and Japan – just under 23 milliion. That made the game the most-watched association football match in United States history, marking an increase of 77 per cent compared with the final at the 2011 Women’s World Cup, which was contested by the same teams.
As such, the 2015 Women’s World Cup final was watched by more US viewers than tuned in to see historic and iconic sporting events such as the National Basketball League Finals or ice hockey’s Stanley Cup.
According to the Nielsen report, the 2015 final was also the highest-viewed Spanish-language game in the history of the event.
Telemundo, which broadcast the match, said its viewership had reached 1.27 million.
And as a unique marker for the equality of the men’s and women’s game, during this broadcast the Argentine announcer Andres Cantor’s famed “Goooooool” shout for Carli Lloyd’s third goal for the United States went on for just under 40 seconds.
In terms of tickets, France24 reports there are 1.3 million for sale for this year's tournament. And BBC reports that 950,000 tickets have already been sold.
As far as the host broadcasters are concerned, for the first time at a World Cup the French women’s team’s games and the final rounds of the tournament will be broadcast on TF1, the nation’s leading free-to-air network.
TF1 will use the same main commentary duo for the French women’s matches that it uses for the men’s matches: the commentator Gregoire Margotton and the former France star Bixente Lizarazu.
Meanwhile, the French Football Federation is happily connecting the men’s and the women’s game, with one of its commercial partners running a marketing campaign under the slogan: “Don’t wait for 2022 to relive 2018”.
That has annoyed some of the French team, with striker Eugénie Le Sommer voicing her frustration.
Gracenote, a sports analytics company owned by Neilsen, has predicted that France are favourites to win the World Cup, while England are fourth favourites with an 11 per cent chance.
The forecast used ratings from FIFA’s world rankings to estimate the percentage chance of each match being won, drawn or lost for each team, with those percentages fed into simulations of the full competition.
This produced estimates of each team’s chance of reaching every stage of the competition. France had a 22 per cent chance of victory, followed by the United States on 14 per cent, Germany on 12 per cent and England.
But, lest the women’s game should be tempted to present a fixed grin to the world, there are those who point out that it is still undermined by profound fault lines.
In his latest piece for tortoisemedia.com, Glenn Moore, the former chief football writer of The Independent who has been women’s football correspondent of World Soccer since 2016, kicks off with the absence from the Women's World Cup of the Norwegian widely acknowledged as the world’s best female player, 23-year-old Ada Hegerberg.
For reasons that have not been made plain, the footballer who last year became the first female recipient of the Ballon d’Or Féminin – and whose withering look told blithering DJ/MC Martin Solveig what he could do with his question about whether she could “twerk” – has refused to play for the national team.
“On the face of it,” Moore writes, “women international footballers in Norway, one of the more egalitarian nations, have a good deal, with basic pay equal to men’s. However, that initiative was driven by the men’s team, not the federation.
“It is understood that many of Hegerberg’s complaints relate to the wider structure of Norwegian women’s football, from the grassroots to the national league, Toppserien, whose sponsorship by OBOS, a housing co-operative, appears to have happened despite the NFF rather than because of it.”
Moore adds that in the past few years, Australian and Danish players have gone on strike, Ireland’s players have revealed that they had to share tracksuits with the male youth team and Brazilian players quit over the sacking of their first female coach.
With regard to the all-conquering United States team, he adds: “The national team are suing their own federation in an effort to secure equal pay with the men (who failed to qualify for the World Cup).”
He also cites the Nigerian players who, after winning the 2016 African Women’s Cup of Nations, refused to leave their hotel in Abuja until back pay and bonuses were forthcoming.
The dispute, which saw players protesting outside Parliament on budget day, lasted 13 days before being settled by Government intervention and the Super Falcons did not play again for more than a year.
Jamaica, meanwhile, are at the World Cup – but only because Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella funded the team after the national federation failed to do so. For the Jamaican women, finally, Sun is Shining – and they are ready to Stir It Up. But there are still battles to be won throughout the women’s game. It is not only Hegerberg who will have to Get Up Stand Up….