Dhe timing was obvious: right before the sold-out opening game of the women’s European Football Championship – the hosts from England meet Austria in front of around 70,000 fans in Manchester – six women announce that they are taking over the women’s team from Viktoria Berlin. The group around the former player and two-time world champion Ariane Hingst includes the investor Verena Pausder and the CEO of Vattenfall Wärme Berlin AG, Tanja Wielgoß. In addition, there is the former journalist Felicia Mutterer, the head of a Berlin craft beer brewery, Katharina Kurz, and Lisa Währer, a marketing specialist who once worked for Jung von Matt/Sports, among others. The goal: to increase the visibility of women’s football, improve structures and pay – and make the area more attractive for sponsors. All topics that of course also resonate with the European Championship.
“The largest European women’s sports event in history,” promises the English Football Association FA confidently. According to UEFA, more than 500,000 of the approximately 700,000 tickets have already been sold. The preliminary round games of the English women and the final in Wembley have long been sold out. The particularly low prices – from ten pounds – for games from other nations would hardly have been necessary for a new record. For comparison: around 240,000 fans came to the EM 2017 in the Netherlands.
“Men and women play the same game, but the physique makes it a different sport”
A lot has happened since then. But the conditions in England are also significantly better than elsewhere. The “Women’s Super League” is always cited as a positive example of professionalization. The TV deal, signed in March 2021, is said to be the best-paid for a women’s league at around £8million per season. A little later, UEFA and the streaming service Dazn spoke of the “biggest TV deal ever made in the history of women’s football” for the exclusive rights to the newly organized women’s Champions League. Of course, there is no question that women’s football is more present in England and marketing is better than in other countries. The stage EM should fuel the development further.
In Germany, too, one hopes for a boost. After all, sporting professionalism, more visibility and better financing go hand in hand. For the European Championship, ARD, Sky and the provider Deutsche Telekom (Magenta TV) are showing the documentary “Born for this – More than football” for the national players. As a tournament sponsor and partner of the DFB, the Volkswagen Group is launching a campaign under the motto “Women play football. #Nowomensfootball”. Germany goalkeeper Almuth Schult recently criticized the comparison between women’s and men’s football and the use of language.
“Men and women play the same game, but the physique makes it a different sport, so the comparison doesn’t make sense,” Katja Kraus recently told the FAZ. The former goalkeeper is a partner at Jung von Matt/Sports, co-founder of the initiative “Football can do more” and is also mentioned as a supporter of the Viktoria Berlin project. In any case, numbers from England or the latest world record crowd – 91,648 spectators at the Champions League game Barcelona against Wolfsburg – should always be viewed in context. Sold out arenas are often standard for men’s games, but for women they are (still) the absolute exception.
Women should also go to the arenas more often in the Bundesliga
The Barça women sometimes play in front of 5000 fans in the league, in England there is a similar picture. The EM is therefore not only held in arenas, but also in small league venues with almost 5,000 to 12,000 seats. The English association counters criticism of this with reference to the EM 2017 as a basis for planning and the not exactly exuberant interest from larger venues.
While in England at best 20,000 spectators come to league games, there are not even these outliers in this country. That should change from the coming season if the DFB’s plan goes. Then, following the example of the Champions League, “highlight games” are to take place in the arenas of the men’s Bundesliga clubs. A lot is promised from the commitment of these clubs. “The charisma and infrastructure of the big men’s football brands are necessary to raise awareness of women’s football and to offer appropriate framework conditions,” Kraus put it.
With regard to the national teams, the bonuses are also a central topic. After all, the German players would receive 60,000 euros from the DFB if they won the title (after 37,500 euros in 2017). For comparison: the men would have received 400,000 euros per capita for a European title in 2021. In the USA, the premiums are now the same, but the conditions are different. “It is also true that the marketing revenues of men and women, which also result in the tournament bonuses, are extremely different in the Bundesliga and the national teams,” said national coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg recently.
The comparison between Viktoria Berlin and the role model of the six players, the US club Angel City FC, also fits into the picture. Founded by actress Natalie Portman, among others, and mostly owned by women, Almuth Schult’s future club has sold around 15,000 season tickets. Viktoria Berlin, on the other hand, is currently playing in the third league for women and, according to the will of the six shareholders, should be first-class in five years.