FIFA, NWSL and Nebraska lead the way

FIFA, NWSL and Nebraska lead the way

The world’s first purpose-built stadium for a women’s sports franchise opened in Kansas City, Missouri on Saturday, March 16, as the new home of the NWSL’s Kansas City Current.

The venue, which was first announced in 2021, serves as another reminder of the surge in women’s sport in recent years. Deloitte estimates that in 2024 elite women’s sports will generate more than $1 billion in revenue for the first time – a 300% increase from 2021, and SponsorUnited research found that the number of sponsorship deals in women’s professional sports has increased by more than 22 percent year-on-year.

In 2023 alone, several records have been set in women’s sports.

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has reportedly generated the most revenue in the history of the tournament and is the most attended event in the history of the Women’s World Cup.

With the addition of two more teams in 2024, the NWSL signed the largest broadcast deal in women’s sports in 2023 and set a league attendance record.

The WNBA’s New York Liberty hosted the largest single-game crowd in league history for Game 3 of the WNBA Finals at the Barclays Center.

Perhaps the most significant women’s sports record broken in 2023 was when the University of Nebraska women’s volleyball team set a world record for attendance at a women’s sporting event.

Held at Memorial Stadium, the school’s soccer stadium, Nebraska Volleyball Day drew 92,003 fans, surpassing the previous world record of 91,648 fans set for a soccer match between Barcelona and Wolfsburg in 2022.

Supporting women’s sports has become a bigger outcome than just an attendance record for the university. “The ripple effect is huge,” said Doug Ewald, chief financial officer and executive associate AD at the University of Nebraska. “The economic impact for a typical home Saturday football weekend is $12 to $13 million. For this event, the economic impact on the city of Lincoln, Nebraska was over $10 million.

The day’s social value alone added another $2 million, Ewald added. “To this day it keeps on giving.”

The attendance record fell on the anniversary of a major milestone in women’s sport. “When we did this, it was really a celebration of 50 years of Title IX,” Ewald said. Title IX protects students from discrimination based on sex in any educational program or activity that receives federal financial aid. “Let’s be honest. There’s no better way to celebrate our women here in Nebraska – and across the country – than to set a world record.”

The excitement surrounding women’s sports was evident during Nebraska Volleyball Day and is just as evident in the Kansas City Current’s new stadium investment.

“As the first stadium purpose-built for a professional women’s sports team, CPKC Stadium is a proof of concept in many ways,” said Current co-owner Chris Long. “This will demonstrate how investment and ownership of the stadium is key to the success of women’s sport. It provides the revenue streams needed to reinvest in players and the fan experience. We are the first, but we will not be the last.”

Current Stadium isn’t the only one positioning women’s sports for a strong 2024.

Globally, the 2024 Olympics in Paris will for the first time feature an equal number of male and female athletes. Additionally, two new women’s professional sports leagues, the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWSL) and the Professional Volleyball Federation, have already launched in January. The latter set an attendance record for women’s professional volleyball in its first match.

From world records to landmark stadiums, the wave of women’s sport is not slowing down in 2024.

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