Female Sports Fans
Sports Fandom: “What do Women Want?!” A Multi-Sport Analysis of Female Sports Fans
At the recent FIFA Master Conference hosted by CIES (International Centre for Sports Studies) in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, a research group comprised of Sara Cecamore (Italy), Kristina Fraesdorf (Germany), Rochak Langer (India) and Áine Power (Ireland) presented their novel research on female fans of male dominated sports. In their presentation, the group explained how, female sports fandom is a much neglected research area despite the major economic and social benefits associated with female sports fans. Their project aimed at addressing this ‘gap’ in existing research by investigating and suggesting some answers to the following question: “When it comes to sports fandom, what do women want?!” The research adopted an innovative multi-sport, multi-regional approach by analyzing eight different sports across five different countries to provide a snapshot of how these sports address their female fans.
The group’s research identified the following issues:
• Women do not want the overpowering masculine culture of sport to continue. They want a process of “feminization” to occur within the sports world.
• Female fans do not want to be excluded from engaging in sports fandom. They want to be included in regular fan culture without necessarily having to adopt aspects of the language and behavior that prevails within it.
• Female fans do not want to be singled out by their sex. They want acceptance in the same way it is afforded to men. They want to be accepted within fan communities on their own terms as legitimate and authentic fans.
Female fans were found to be in favour of improving facilities at sports grounds, enhancing a family friendly atmosphere, tailored marketing campaigns, gender appropriate merchandize and of gaining ownership of their sports fandom.
Recommendations by the research group
Recommendations of measures that fall within the scope of sports organizations made by the group were as follows: (1) Infrastructural Improvements (guarantee stadium safety and security, adequate toilet facilities, a safe stadium environment), (2) Marketing (avoid homogenizing/stereotyping female fans and using clichés, instead adopt multidimensional marketing campaigns), (3) Club merchandise (extend and develop the range of products offered to women), (4) Inclusion (acknowledge the existence of female fans and understand the obstacles that they face), (5) Women in Leadership positions (appoint more women to decision making roles and involve them within the structure of the sport).
Their general message to sports organizations was:
- Recognize the existence of female fans, of all types, within the fan base.
- Listen to what female fans have to say.
- Look and Learn at what has worked for other sports.
- Act now! Be proactive in engaging with female fans.
The role of third parties outside of sports organizations was also addressed. The group recommended that the media should encourage an increase in female journalistic presence and ensure that the presence of women within the sports media is based not merely on beauty but on merit. Additionally, the potential impact that existing gender equality legislation could make in the sports domain to bring about cultural and institutional change was emphasized. “Title IX” in the US and the Norwegian Gender Equality Acts have been used to significant effect. Finally, it was acknowledged that women themselves have a role to play in improving the situation and they should agitate for change and improvement.
The research shows that sports organizations must bear in mind that that female sports fans are not a homogenous fan category. Women are individuals and the same goes for female sports fans. While certain core commonalities can be identified, a “one size fits all” approach will not work. The presentation concluded with a simple, but significant, message: “Female fans love their sport and want their sports to love them back!”
The project authors can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The FIFA Master is an International Master in the Management, Law and Humanities of Sport.
For more information on the FIFA Master visit www.cies.ch