Posted: 25 Mar. 2021 5 min. read

TMT Predictions

The time is right for a breakthrough season in women’s sport 

At the start of every year, I am always fascinated to see what will be identified as the big trends of the year ahead for technology, media and telecoms in Deloitte’s annual TMT Predictions report. 

Alongside the predictions relating to the rollout of 5G, the rise of 8k TVs and the massive growth in revenues from the Cloud, it seemed timely that the key media trend highlighted by TMT partner Paul Lee when he spoke at our recent Belfast event was that this could be the year revenues from women’s sport finally take off – reaching almost $1bn.

While revenue from women’s elite sports will still be a fraction of the value of men’s sport at under a billion dollars in 2021, Deloitte’s prediction is that revenues over the course of the 2021/22 season will reach a new record as high audience figures start to be matched with significant interest in brand sponsorship agreements and TV rights deals.

Paul noted that when we finally see the end of social distancing measures, pent-up demand for live sporting events will likely lead to record matchday attendances. Record TV audiences are also expected for the Women’s Rugby World Cup, the postponed Women’s EURO 2021, now scheduled for 2022, and the W Series as this is added to the support bill of eight Grands Prix in 2021.

Prior to COVID-19, matchday audiences, TV viewing figures and fan bases for women’s sports had been building at a phenomenal pace.

The 2019 Women’s World Cup football was watched by 993 million on TV and 482 million via digital platforms. In 2020 over 86,000 fans watched the women’s T20 World Cup Cricket Final between Australia and India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The challenge in 2021 and beyond, post pandemic, will be for women’s sports to pull in substantial TV and stadium audiences consistently across multiple sports. To do that will require substantially more financial backing than is currently put into the majority of women’s sports.

As the lockdowns ends, Deloitte’s view is that brands have a significant opportunity to seize the moment to explore new opportunities in the market, which have the potential to bring immense value, not only in monetary terms, but also as a signal for their support of gender parity.

Diversity is one of Deloitte’s core values and we are committed to playing our part in helping to raise the profile of women’s sport and helping to get more women and girls take part.

In Northern Ireland, Deloitte is the official sponsor of Ulster Rugby’s women’s team, supporting the growth of participation in the sport at all levels, so it’s a trend we take a particular interest in. Female participation in rugby has been growing steadily and we believe our backing can further develop the game in Ulster.

It was interesting to hear Paul Lee note the scale of the opportunities that exist for brands prepared to get in early with support for women’s sport. For example, while TV rights for NBA basketball in the US were worth $2.6bn a year ago, the TV rights for the WNBA went for just $25m. The TV rights for women’s football in Spain sold for just €3m, where domestic TV rights alone for men’s La Liga games are worth €1bn.

Research has shown that 84% of sports fans are interested in at least one women’s sport so the opportunity for those who make a move now is a compelling one.

We have started to see big changes when it comes to equal prize money to men and women at the top level of sports. A BBC Sport study recently found that of 37 sports that offered prize money, only three didn’t offer parity at any of its major championships or events – with football, basketball and golf the sports with the biggest prize money gaps.

The drive to level up prize money could undoubtedly be accelerated by the rise in commercial interest in women’s sport that Deloitte is forecasting. It must be hoped that with that the increased financial backing will come even greater visibility in the media and, in turn, greater visibility should help drive increased participation. It is still very true that in sport and life, you can’t be what you can’t see.

I am certainly very hopeful that for women’s sport, this could be a breakthrough season. 

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Key contact

Danny McConnell

Danny McConnell


Danny leads the Technology Consulting business in Northern Ireland and specialises in Deloitte Insight Products & Services. In his role as Technology Consulting Partner he aims to build and develop relationships with public and private sector organisations within Northern Ireland to increase their awareness of the technology related services that Deloitte can provide including analytics, digital, technology consulting & testing.