Women's Sport Still Fighting To Draw Viewers
The Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 kicked off on Wednesday 9th August. It is being hosted in Ireland, across venues in Dublin and Belfast, but not the likes of the Aviva or Kingspan Stadia.
The tournament is also being broadcast on RTE TV, and on tuning into Ireland's opening match against Australia, empty seats were clearly visible in the UCD stadium, which has seating capacity for 1,500 people. If we can't fill 1,500 seats to support our own team in a tournament considered the pinnacle of women's rugby, then we are a long way off filling the 18,000-52,000 seats their male counterparts regularly sell out in the aforementioned venues.
Ah, but wait... we were all watching it on TV right?
Eh not quite. 191,300 people watched the Ireland v Australia match on RTE2 on Wednesday evening; at its peak there were 322,300 viewers. Healthy enough when put amongst the likes of The Sunday Game (RTE), Broadchurch S3 (TV3) and Celebrity Big Brother (3e), all averaging similar numbers. The 2017 Women's 6 Nations tournament drew slightly less with 128,000-160,000 viewers (RTE2). However, when put up against men's rugby these numbers pale in comparsion. Ireland games in the 2017 RBS 6 Nations pulled in between 650,000-826,000 each.
And it is not just rugby where we see these gaps. The live broadcasts of the Camogie quarter-finals on 5th August had 92,000-102,000 viewers (The Saturday Game, RTE2). Just two weeks before the Hurling quarter-finals drew 333,000 viewers (The Saturday Game, RTE2); while broadcasts of The Sunday Game regularly attract 400,000 or more viewers.
Lidl's sponsorship of Ladies Gaelic Football has been inspirational in highlighting the need for support, with their latest research series of videos demonstrating the clear benefits of supporting women in sport. Sport England's This Girl Can campaign is encouraging women of all ages to get out and move. Many other brands have latched on to this growing need for, and clearly lucrative, communications angle - Aldi is supporting the Women's Rugby World Cup, and P&G's Always Like A Girl is encouraging girls to stick with it.
They'll stay playing if they get support and encouragement. Brands are making their moves. So what can we all do?
We can tune in, buy tickets and cheer them on.
Source: All viewing statistics via Nielsen.