The Real Score: Women’s World Cup showcasing investment

Published: 08-18-2023 9:27 AM

The sports landscape is evolving, marked by an unmistakable shift — investment in women’s sports has reached unprecedented heights. This transformation not only showcases athletic excellence but also underscores the profound value that women’s sports contribute. As Women’s World Cup 2023 captivates global audiences, it’s a vivid reminder of the groundbreaking impact women athletes are making.

This prompts us to ponder: How can we sustain and amplify this momentum? The answer lies in nurturing the next generation of female sports leaders, a goal fervently pursued by the McCormack Department of Sport Management at UMass Amherst.

Investing in women has yielded remarkable returns, as seen through the trajectory of women’s soccer after the 1999 Women’s World Cup. The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s achievements — securing four World Cups, four Olympic gold medals, and eight CONCACAF championships — stem from continuous investments. The 1999 team’s iconic victory spurred a cultural shift, inspiring girls to embrace soccer and rallying support for women’s sports.

This legacy led to increased funding and resources for women’s soccer in the United States. Leagues like the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) reflect this commitment. Bolstered coaching and talent pipelines, notably under Jill Ellis’ leadership, led to consecutive World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019.

This investment’s impact wasn’t confined to national success; it ignited a global movement. The U.S. women’s team set performance standards, motivating international competitors. U.S.-hosted major tournaments elevated women’s soccer’s global prominence, captivating audiences. Today, Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand showcases its impact.

 Group stage viewership surged by 30% with over 1.7 million tickets sold, attendance records set, and high viewership on platforms like ESPN. The official FIFA Women’s World Cup website experienced a 45% traffic increase, and social media engagement under #FIFAWWC reached over 500 million users. FIFA reported a 60% revenue increase in merchandise sales. FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 is a triumphant showcase of women’s football talent and global resonance.

Keeping this global context in mind, our focus turns to the McCormack Sport Management Department’s initiatives at the University of Massachusetts. We are ardently nurturing the emergence of the next wave of female leaders in the sports industry, echoing the transformational investments that have elevated women’s sports to their present glory.

In our pursuit to nurture trailblazing leaders, we adopt a three-pronged strategy: providing educational opportunities, empowering through industry connections, and spearheading groundbreaking research. This approach is integral to shaping the future of women in sports leadership.

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Providing educational opportunities: At the core of our mission is the pioneering “Women in Sport Business” class. This groundbreaking initiative brings accomplished women executives from across the nation into our academic fold. Through sharing insights and experiences, these leaders empower our students, fostering a mentorship dynamic that propels them into impactful roles within the industry.

Empowering through industry connections: Our department bridges academia and industry reality. Through strategic partnerships, internships, and mentorships, our students gain firsthand exposure to the nuances of the sports business. For example, in the inaugural year of the Women in Business class, students collaborated with Wasserman’s The Collective to provide data insights for gender-equitable sports media. This practical exposure cultivates problem-solving skills and an astute grasp of industry dynamics.

Pioneering research: The McCormack Department’s faculty ranks among the world’s most prolific scholars, with research largely centered on the distinctive value of women’s sports and enhancing gender equity within the sports industry. Professor Liz Delia’s pioneering work explores the meaning individuals derive from supporting women’s sports teams, while my collaborations with women’s sports executives underscore the unique opportunities in the field.

These research endeavors seamlessly integrate into our educational framework, ensuring women’s sports receive equal standing with men’s. This transformation guarantees our students not only recognize but also champion the immeasurable worth women’s sports offer, and it fosters an understanding among our female students regarding the value they bring to the sports industry. By dismantling stereotypes and inequities, we are cultivating leaders who will perpetuate parity and inclusivity.

As Women’s World Cup 2023 unfolds (the final is set for Sunday morning at 6 a.m.), it emphasizes that investing in women’s sports transcends mere competition; it’s about catalyzing transformation across lives, societies, and industries. Our department’s commitment is unwavering in equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and networks to carve paths in the sports world.

The resounding success of women’s soccer exemplifies what is achievable when investment intersects with passion. We extend an invitation to all stakeholders, from educational institutions to industry leaders, to join us in shaping a sports future where women emerge not just as participants but as leaders driving enduring change. If you’re ready to be a part of this transformation, come join us!

This is the first monthly column written by the faculty from the top-ranked McCormack Department of Sport Management, housed in the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. The department will share insights and perspectives on timely issues in sports. This column will run on the third Friday of each month.

Nicole Melton is an associate department chair and associate professor of sport management who has been at UMass since 2015. Nicole can be reached at nmelton@isenberg.umass.edu.

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