England won the 2017 women’s World Cup in spectacular style in front of a packed house at Lords and, importantly, in front of an enormous worldwide TV audience.
In fact, in the UK, more people (1.1 million) watched the World Cup final on Sky Sports than the average audience for Premier League football. Sadly, it was a lost opportunity.
With follow-up investment in marketing and the infrastructure of the game, that World Cup win could have helped propel the women’s game to the next level. Unfortunately, that investment didn’t arrive at the level it should have. It reminds me of exactly what has happened since we won our hockey gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Neither of the sports have grown in fan appeal as much as I believe they could have.
So, with the Women’s T20 World Cup under way, can this global event put the women’s game back on the map?
As with the men, the women’s form going into this tournament is strong and they could definitely go all the way. But would another World Cup win give us that opportunity again? With the time difference and exposure it will receive, sadly the answer is no.
However, I do think the women’s game has a different opportunity approaching it.
The Big Bash in Australia has taught us a number of things about hosting a T20 tournament but one of the biggest learnings has been how the organisers have helped propel the popularity of the women’s game.
At times, the women’s games have been played before the men’s games at the same ground, which has boosted attendances to 10,000-15,000 people. In fact, this year they set the record for an attendance of 5,650 for a stand-alone women’s Big Bash match. There has been a concerted marketing effort to push the women’s game forward. And it has worked.
Our opportunity lies with ‘The Hundred’ this summer. The marketing spends behind The Hundred are huge and the women’s game is part of this. If the organisers and broadcasters get this right, there is an opportunity for the women’s game to come to life again in this country.
They will need to push forward the game’s characters and allow the women to express themselves as people just as much as players. This is a big opportunity for new people to notice the women’s game for all its brilliance and personalities.
Women’s cricket has come so far in the last decade and this year is the time to push it on again through The Hundred.
The tournament has its cynics, but if it does what some people believe it can, then it could be huge for the women’s game.
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