Is it true that women don't have time to watch sport?

How do we get busy women interested in sport?






Every week, I write another post about an amazing woman who’s involved in sport – whether she’s playing sport, helping out the players, or supporting in some other way.

And every week, the conclusion is the same. More funding needs to be given to women’s sport. More airtime needs to be given to women’s sport.

And more women need to get involved in sport. More women need to play, more women need to compete, and more women need to watch.

But how do we actually get more women watching sport?

I mean – think back to the last time you actually went to a cricket game, or a football game, or a soccer game. Think back to the last time you sat down to watch a match on TV. The last time you bought a ticket to some kind of sporting event.

There will, of course, be those female sports fans that make it a regular commitment to go along to sports games.

But the great majority of women – although they might enjoy certain sports – don’t make watching it their priority. They’re incredibly busy, and with so many commitments, sport just becomes one that they can take or leave.

Even those who might watch one grand final or, say, the Olympics, won’t watch any particular sport regularly or necessarily keep up with what’s going on. They’ll just tune in at the last minute and say, “who’s playing? Okay, go Roosters!”


On Fairfax, former deputy sports editor Kathryn Wicks wrote that the reason for this was simply because women don’t have the time. No matter how well a woman might manage to juggle work and family life and everything else, she reckons it’s “nigh on impossible” to go along to any kind of sporting event:

I would love to spend six hours at a cricket ground watching two world-class batters slog it out. Instead I was at an under-13 boys game, like any good mother would have been.

I would have loved to have watched all of the netball. But I was working.

I’d love to watch the Matildas but I will probably collapse exhausted at the end of the working week and sleep through it.

She has a point. Sport needs to be better suited to women, and it needs to be compelling for both women and men – as it needs both audiences. But there’s work to be done in order to get these women watching.

I had a chat this week to US marketing guru Dan Migala – who pointed out to me that women play a HUGE part in the sporting world because of how it connects to their friends and family. Especially women aged 35 and older. In fact, women purchase 80% of all sport apparel dollars and purchase 46% of official NFL merchandise.

But the problem is that they’re generally attracted to particular sports because of the men in their lives. They are not dedicated fans.

Women in the US spend $1billion a year on NFL merchindise. Can we match that level of interest in Australia?

And winning over female fans doesn’t happen overnight.

Companies such as the American NFL have been working on it for several decades now, by partnering with marketing such as Breast Cancer Awareness and various fashion platforms.

Additionally, they have been running NFL 101 clinics for women since the 1990s, which obviously result in many more women getting involved.

It’s worked. These days, over $1billion(US) is spent each year on NFL merchandise for women alone.


There’s also the minor league baseball in the US, which has an ENORMOUS following of women – 49 million female fans, to be exact, making up 48% of their total fanbase – because of how family-friendly it is. It’s affordable and convenient with heaps of events targeted both at young women and mothers. They can get manicures at sporting events, if they want.

“Change takes time,” Dan told me. “And women respond to genuineness and the entertainment option. You’ve got to deliver on the entertainment.”

The other thing? Women need to be seduced by sports. “As a fan, you won’t be ‘married’ on the first date – you want to be courted a little bit,” Dan said. “The second date has to be better than the first. You have grow the relationship through sport courtship.”

It’s something that Cricket Australia is very much doing at the moment – their Big Bash League is very much built for women with children. They’ve developed a shortened version of cricket that only takes two hours, and features fireworks, music and entertainment. Oh, and the whole family can go along for under $50.

I would sooner stick needles into my eyes than watch a game of cricket – but I think even I could be convinced if I knew that it only went for two hours… and if I knew that there was going to be FIREWORKS.

Smart, Cricket Australia. Very smart.

What do you think needs to be done to get women watching sport?