2023 Year in Review: Women’s Football
The year 2023 stood out as an extraordinary period in women’s football, establishing remarkable achievements with unmatched spectator numbers and hosting intensely competitive events. This year was marked by a groundbreaking World Cup, substantial financial sponsorships, and award-winning athletic feats, highlighting the best of women’s football. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant events and trends that have occurred over the past year.
FIFA Women’s World Cup
The Women’s World Cup stands as the pinnacle event in women’s football, drawing skilled players from across the globe and acting as a showcase for the sport’s top talents. This year’s edition was notable for several landmark achievements: it was the first World Cup co-hosted by two countries, Australia and New Zealand, featured the highest prize money ever awarded in any Women’s World Cup, and attracted nearly 2 million spectators in person, setting a new attendance record.
This iteration of the tournament was especially momentous for eight countries making their inaugural appearance. Haiti, the Republic of Ireland, Morocco, Panama, the Philippines, Portugal, Vietnam, and Zambia each debuted in the World Cup, signaling the expanding reach and development of women’s football. These nations demonstrated their worth by competing against some of the sport’s giants. The Atlas Lionesses of Morocco notably made headlines by qualifying over Germany, a two-time winner. In parallel to their male counterparts in the 2022 World Cup, Morocco displayed that they are more than capable of competing on the world’s biggest stage.
The End of an Era and the Rise of a New
This year also marked the retirement of several legendary figures in women’s football. Icons such as Marta, Christine Sinclair, Megan Rapinoe, Estefanía Banini, and Caroline Seger concluded their international careers. These athletes have been trailblazers, significantly shaping the evolution of the game. Yet, as one generation steps back, a new one rises. This World Cup highlighted the emergence of remarkable young talents poised for bright futures. Players like Casey Phair, Guilia Dragoni, Sheika Scott, Alyssa Thompson, and Linda Caicedo proved that despite their youth, they earned their place in the world’s most prestigious football tournament. The future looks promising with these extraordinarily gifted players at the forefront, ready to make their mark in the world of football.
Facts and Figures
Finally, the figures associated with this year’s tournament reflect an encouraging rise in the stature of women’s football. The total prize pool reached $110 million, a more than threefold increase from the 2019 edition’s amount. Additionally, FIFA ensured a minimum payout of $30,000 for each player, with the champions earning $270,000. The growth, however, extends beyond mere numbers. The Australian National Team, known as the Matildas, captivated their nation with outstanding performances during the World Cup. Their impact was seen in skyrocketing jersey sales, a boosted social media presence, and consistently high attendance at matches, solidifying football as the premier sport in Australian homes.
Investment in Women’s Football
The expansion of women’s football is not just reflected in salary statistics or attendance figures. This upward trend has captured the attention of clubs, leagues, and investors worldwide. Investments in state-of-the-art training facilities, securing dedicated sponsors, and obtaining exclusive media coverage are key strategies that can further propel the growth of women’s football. Let’s take a look at some notable investments made by the biggest entities in the women’s game.
Stadium and Training Facilities
A notable feature in women’s football is the common practice of teams sharing stadiums, regardless of their fame. Even renowned clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea, FC Barcelona, and PSG typically share their stadiums, often with their youth teams. Although they occasionally have the chance to play in larger venues, as FC Barcelona does for their UWCL matches, having dedicated access to these stadiums is not the norm for these teams.
In a groundbreaking development, the NWSL’s Kansas City Current opened the CPKC stadium this year, the first stadium exclusively for a women’s football team. The construction of the 11,500-seat stadium spanned over a year and is set for its first full use in the 2024 NWSL Season. Adding to this impressive achievement, the club announced that all season tickets for their inaugural season in the new stadium have already been sold out.
This development signifies a future direction in women’s football, where more investments in dedicated facilities are anticipated. Brighton Hove Albion has also revealed plans for constructing a stadium specifically for their women’s team. Similarly, Manchester United recently inaugurated new training facilities designated for their women’s and academy teams. This growing trend of creating specialized infrastructure is a positive sign, likely to significantly aid in the advancement of women’s football.
Video Games and Media
A significant area where women’s football has experienced remarkable growth is in the realm of video games and media. In the summer of 2023, renowned video game developer EA announced the inclusion of women’s football players in Ultimate Team, their most popular game mode. This move by EA is particularly commendable as it enables young fans to enjoy playing as their favorite women’s football stars in a video game. Additionally, this integration into a widely played game significantly boosts the visibility of women footballers, exposing millions of gamers to some of the most thrilling players in women’s football.
Additionally, the popularity of docuseries focusing on leading women’s football teams has also surged. The Australian National Team partnered with Disney+ to document their journey to the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Similarly, the dominant USA team teamed up with Netflix to release a series showcasing their quest to defend their World Cup title. These web series play a significant role in shining a spotlight on women’s football, enhancing its visibility to a wider audience. Such projects are instrumental in fostering greater association and engagement with the sport, contributing positively to its growth and popularity.
Sponsorship in women’s football has seen a notable increase in recent years, with this year being particularly remarkable due to the standout collaborations between companies and the sport. A significant announcement came from Manchester City, revealing that Joie would be the official stadium sponsor, a pioneering move in the industry. In addition, players like Sophia Smith have benefitted from major partnerships, such as her collaboration with Nike. The sportswear giant launched an extensive advertisement campaign to showcase the US forward’s exceptional goal-scoring prowess.
An interesting aspect of the current landscape is that some of the highest-paid players in women’s football are from the US’s NWSL. Players such as Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Sophia Smith, and Trinity Rodman all play in the NWSL. This fact underlines the league’s capacity for attracting substantial sponsorship investments and its financial promise. This trend also reflects the growing commercial appeal of women’s football globally, indicating a shift towards greater recognition and financial parity with men’s football. As sponsorships continue to grow, they play a crucial role in elevating the sport, providing teams and players with more resources, and enhancing the overall quality and competitiveness of the game.
It’s challenging to identify a player who has had a more impressive year than the Spanish virtuoso, Aitana Bonmati. The year 2023 saw her achieve a treble with FC Barcelona, and she capped off the summer by triumphing in the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Below is a rundown of her remarkable achievements this year:
Ballon d’Or Féminin
FIFA Women’s World Cup Golden Ball
UEFA Women’s Player of the Year
UEFA Women’s Champions League Player of the Season
Supercopa de España Femenina Final MVP
The former star of the US Women’s National Team announced her retirement at the end of the 2023 NWSL season. Her remarkable career includes two World Cup wins, the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at the 2019 World Cup, and the Ballon d’Or in the same year. As she concludes her illustrious journey in football, her impact extends beyond the field. She played a pivotal role in advocating for equal pay for the US women’s national team and championed inclusivity in the sport. Her influence as one of the most outstanding and impactful players of her generation will undoubtedly inspire and shape future generations in women’s football.
Emma Hayes, the Chelsea manager, has emerged as one of the sought-after names in recent times. Celebrated as a six-time FA WSL champion, she is widely acknowledged as one of the most skilled managers in the sport. Her exceptional coaching abilities have now earned her the prestigious position as the head coach of the US Women’s National Team, making her the highest-paid coach in women’s football with an annual salary of $2 million. In addition to her coaching achievements, Hayes has been a vocal proponent for the advancement of women’s football, making significant contributions to the development and promotion of the game.
In conclusion, 2023 has been a landmark year for women’s football, marked by groundbreaking achievements, increased visibility, and significant advancements. As we look to the future, the trajectory of women’s football is clear: it’s poised for even greater heights, with emerging talents, evolving media landscapes, and growing global interest set to elevate the game to new levels of popularity and competitive excellence. The legacy of this year’s achievements promises a bright and dynamic future for women’s football.