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The Female Takeover of Sports

Women's sports fan engagement Foudys Helen Hardy

The gender gap in sports is well documented. From athletic scholarships to participation rates, the scales are currently tipped in male athletes’ favor. This is particularly true when it comes to coaches. But a shift is coming. We’re moving toward better female representation at the top, encouraging girls to get involved in sports.

Rapidly growing fan engagement in women's sports is supporting this shift. For instance, the 2022 UEFA European Women’s Championship was watched by 365 million people globally, double the previous championship. And this year video watches on YouTube with ‘women’s football’ in the title were up 75% of the previous year.

While girls and women still occupy a smaller portion of the sports world than males, this increasing engagement offers an unlocked market opportunity for brands to support and drive cultural progress.

An interview with Helen Hardy, founder and CEO of women’s football retail site, Foudys

We asked Helen Hardy, founder and CEO of women’s football retail site, Foudys, what she thinks the football community needs to flourish.

How does the work you do at Foudys foster community, and how much is that a driving force for your goals?

The incentive behind launching Foudys was to create a platform that spotlighted a marginalized group in sport (women’s football) and brought people together. We are supporting every part of the women’s football community, from small amateur 5-a-side teams to the largest teams in women’s football to grow their communities through kits that reflect their passion, their dedication and their love of the game. My life is dedicated to the growth of the women’s game and driving towards a brighter future for women in sport.

We’re hearing that traditional sports, with their rules and competitive cultures, don’t always hold the interest of today’s youth. Words such as joy, exploration, creativity and expressiveness are cited as important ways to engage the Zalphas. What’s your take on this?

I have launched a football club in Manchester that's driven by community over goal tally. The community has grown to become the largest football club representing women in Manchester in under two years. I think this emphasizes how the narrative has changed from a ‘win at all costs’ mentality to a world where football is about what you get from it personally. It’s a sport that can support your mental health, your communication skills and so much more.

Counterfeit goods are consistently in the news with fake merchandise being seized in customs and court case after court case. How damaging do you think this challenge is?

From a personal perspective as a lifelong football shirt collector I find there are different types of consumers. I personally wouldn’t purchase a brand-new iPhone from anywhere but an official store, but those consumers exist and always will. There’s a lifecycle in football goods throughout a season too. This allows you to speak to different audiences at different points in the year. The customers at the start of the season are completely different to our ‘last day of the season’ customers looking for the best deal. It’s important we continue to speak to all audiences about quality and legitimacy as a way of changing the need/want for counterfeit goods.

Who is sport not reaching (but could)?

Women. Simply put we just don’t speak to women well enough across any sphere in the world of sport. It’s an area that organizations are trying to navigate but the organizations are often led by men who find it easier to speak to men. I think 2023 can be the year of her. We can really make a huge difference in making sport more welcoming and accessible to women everywhere.