Women’s sport has attracted an estimated four million more fans in the UK over the past year, according to a YouGov study commissioned by public service broadcaster the BBC.
The research found that 41.5 per cent of respondents, the equivalent of more than 22 million adults in the UK, identify as fans of women’s sport – those classed as big fans, main event supporters or casual followers.
The BBC commissioned two studies, carried out by market research and data analytics firm YouGov, to understand the levels of fandom of women’s sport in the UK in October 2021 and again in August 2022.
The findings included women’s soccer having the biggest increase in fans with 8.7 million more than in 2021. The number of people classing themselves as big fans of women’s soccer also tripled between the studies.
Additionally, there was a 19 per cent increase of female fans of women’s soccer between 2021 and 2022. Winter sports, netball, combat sports and gymnastics also saw notable increases in fans. According to the study, 14 million people said they were open to becoming women’s sport fans.
The studies highlighted how individual sports are at different stages in their fandom development depending on how established they are. Tennis, athletics, winter sports, gymnastics and cycling have larger fan bases of seven years or longer. In contrast, soccer, cricket, rugby and combat sports have gained followers more recently, with fandom in its relative infancy.
“The BBC is a passionate supporter of women’s sport, so it is fantastic to see such positive evidence of how increased visibility of sport can drive even greater interest and impact,” said Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport.