In this modern age it’s impossible to talk about football purely as a sport, but as a business entity that moves billions every year. However, despite the growth of men’s football commercially, women’s football doesn’t seem to be growing at the same rate globally.
The Mexican women’s league hit international headlines in 2019 after news emerged that instead of receiving a bonus, the champions would receive an electronic device. In addition, the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) has also claimed that the sport should generate income naturally.
At the end of July Mexican casino and gambling operator Caliente Interactive became the official partner of the top football leagues in the country, Liga MX, Liga MX Femenil and Liga de Expansión in an attempt to boost the women’s game in the country.
Discussing the partnership, Fernanda Sainz, CMO LatAm of Caliente Interactive believes that it’s important to see women’s football as a separate business, not as something that is directly associated with the men’s game.
Sainz stated: “This league is growing and [everyday] it gets more and more fans, and there will be more sponsors and higher ticket sales. This is a league that is taking its first steps in professionalism, we are betting that it will grow and we want to be present in football, and of course we’ve seen that people are betting in women’s football.”
Liga MX Femenil’s first sponsorship was signed two years after the league’s official debut. According to its authorities, the league still doesn’t generate any income, just expenses. However, there are many franchises that report losses at the end of each fiscal year, regardless of their women’s division.
Higher investment, better results
Currently, Liga MX Femenil features 18 teams, most of them affiliated to teams that play in the men’s Liga MX.
According to Sporting Intelligence’s Global Survey on Sports Salaries, Liga MX Femenil had the lowest salary in the world in 2019 among women’s leagues. However, the Liga MX Femenil final played in 2018 at the Estadio BBVA in Monterrey had an attendance of 51,000 fans, showing that interest is there, it’s just a matter of marketing the sport and improving how the resources are distributed.
“Currently, in Mexico, women’s football’s audience is around 30 per cent and it’s growing to 45 per cent in some teams,” Sainz explained. In addition, the CMO said that people’s interest lies in seeing a good performance, it’s about players feeling the same way fans do, “and that’s something that women’s football gives you.”
“We have to understand that when you go to a football game, you want to see the same empathy for the team. The women’s league covers that, America is playing, Chivas is playing, Monterrey is playing, Xolos is playing. Liga MX Femenil has that empathy,” she added.
Sponsorships have proven to be a necessity to mitigate some of the losses that clubs currently are experiencing due to COVID-19. According to Sainz, this is no different for women’s football and the Liga MX Femenil.
“A sponsor helps grow the sport and what we want is to invest in [something] that we know is going to grow. We have to make sure that the money goes where we want, we’re making an investment,” committed Sainz, who believes that it’s necessary for sponsors to include a clause in contracts that specifies where the money is directed.
“It’s important for us sponsors to do that, especially because we want to grow the sport. The more sports we have, the better for us. And that includes all kinds of sports, it includes women’s sports.”
Women’s football should be seen as a potential business for the betting industry
Caliente Interactive’s CMO revealed that, according to statistics, 70 per cent of gamblers are men. In an industry where the majority of players are men, it’s often seen as if the interest is exclusively on men’s sports.
However, Sainz believes that this is not necessarily true. “[It’s] not like that, bettors like to bet on sports. We have seen a lot of bets on tennis and women’s tennis,” she said.
“We’re pioneers. When we started in Caliente in 2015, people told us that 90 per cent of bets were made on American sports, such as the NFL, the MLB and the NBA. But it didn’t make sense to us, because Mexico is 100 per cent a football country.
“A year later, we had already turned it around, our number one income is football. There was no product, all the technology was designed to develop American bets. That’s how the industry in Mexico was developed, with American software and statistics.”
“But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good business, and that’s what happens with Liga MX. People thought that it couldn’t generate income, but it’s not like that. And as the Liga MX Femenil grows, we’re gonna see more bets being made.”
Currently, only 4 per cent of international media covers women’s sports, however there is optimism that this will slowly grow as women’s football globally becomes more recognised.
Sainz explained: “Everyday there’s more women interested, [many more] than 10 or 15 years ago. It’s a very young thing after all, [but] I’ve seen a very important statistic: Chivas has an audience of 80 million people, of which 30 million are women. What happens to that public that stops consuming the product in the media? It’s not that they’re not interested, it’s because there’s no space, and that’s an opportunity,
“We have data that shows that Liga MX Femenil has a higher rating than Liga de Expansión. I think it has to be promoted.”
The US, a future opportunity
To conclude Sainz looks at the United States as an example as to how to effectively run women’s football, specifically in California with attendance figures averaging 25,000 people in the games played in that jurisdiction in 2019.
Moreover, the state is set to welcome a local team that will start competing in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in 2022.
“We have to imitate California, the Americans handle women’s football very well. After all, they’re the world champions and I believe that we as women need a leading role in this revolution.”
“There is even a synchrony between Xolos’ women’s team and California’s market, there’s an alliance.”