The Scottish Women’s Premier League (SWPL) has welcomed a landmark new scheme to boost investment in women’s sport and its benefits for Scottish women’s football, after taking part in the scheme’s first session.
20 top tier UK women’s sport leagues, teams and competitions across seven different sports took part in the first session of the new Women’s Sport Investment Accelerator scheme, which aims to boost investment and increase broadcast audiences for women’s sport both in Scotland and across the UK.
Launched by the UK Government’s Department for Business and Trade, the scheme will run for a year and bring together UK-based sports rightsholders – such as leagues, teams, competitions and events – who are seeking investment together with industry experts and sports investors.
Fiona McIntyre, Managing Director of the SWPL, said: "I am delighted to have been selected to participate in the Women’s Sport Investment Accelerator programme on behalf of the SWPL. External investment has been crucial to our recent growth, and will be even more vital as we strive to challenge women’s football in Scotland to think innovatively and ensure it meets its undoubted potential, both on and off the pitch. This programme is exactly what women’s sport in the UK needs – creativity, innovation and support combined with the passion and motivation of those striving to raise the bar and create a new future for women’s sport in the UK.”
UK Government Industry Minister Nusrat Ghani said: “It’s fantastic to see this scheme get off the mark as we aim to make the UK the world’s number one destination for women’s sport investment. We’ve had so many brilliant women’s sport success stories this year. I’m excited to see the overwhelming appetite from leagues, teams and competitions from right across the breadth of women’s sports, and am proud to back this fast-growing sector as it pushes boundaries and grows to the next level.”
Participants in the scheme’s first session also included other elite women’s sport competitions such as the FA Women’s Super League, England Rugby, England Netball, England and Wales Cricket Board, Volleyball England and more. Seven different sports were represented in total: football, rugby, netball, cricket, golf, sailing and volleyball. Investment in women’s sport is growing rapidly, and the industry is expected to be worth £1 billion a year by 2030. In association with Deloitte’s Sports Business Group and supported by the International Working Group (IWG) on Women and Sport, the scheme is providing a series of sessions offering market insights, connections and networking events alongside comprehensive mentoring for rightsholders who are looking for investment.
This week marked the first of three flagship sessions of the scheme – the next of which takes place in January – with DBT also providing dedicated workshops for rightsholders on specific areas, such as growing broadcast revenues, unlocking new audiences and best practice for working with investors.
Holly Murdoch, The FA’s Head of Operations for the Women’s Professional Game, said: "We are proud to be involved in the new Women’s Sport Investment Accelerator initiative. This group will help to provide a platform that will benefit women’s sport across the country, through shared intelligence and support. We have seen first-hand the incredible growth that women’s football is going through in England, with the unprecedented success of the Lionesses and the record-breaking seasons from across the Barclays Women’s Super League and the Barclays Women’s Championship. Women’s sport has proven that it has the power to inspire people and positively impact lives – and we believe that creating this group of industry experts can be a catalyst to drive positive change for women’s sport across the country."
Tony Sutton, CEO of the Rugby Football League said: “We had an excellent first session of the Women’s Sport Investment Accelerator last night, with a really good mix of people, sports and organisations in the room which led to a high standard of debate, the benefit of some very relevant experience and some positive networking. Personally, I made some good contacts from across the wider sports sector which I feel will be of a high value as we move through the programme.”
Jenny Mitton, Women’s Sport Lead at M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment and mentor for the scheme said: “Women’s sport is the progressive start-up to the men’s sport commercial giant, and the potential is clear to see. New audiences, innovation and aggressive growth, it has all the fundamental qualities that investors look for. “The UK is home to some of the most exciting women’s sport properties, this scheme will equip them with the knowledge to attract investment and make the UK the number one destination for elite women’s sport.”
Tim Bridge, lead partner for Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, said: “The Women’s Sport Investment Accelerator has already generated huge interest from parties across a range of industries, demonstrating that investors and commercial partners are alive to the opportunities that women’s sport offers. This will be crucial for growth, providing funds to be channelled towards professionalisation, digital strategies, infrastructure, and more. This programme will carve out the clear lines of communication that are needed so that commercial partners and investors understand the growth strategies and make-up of women's sport organisations.”
Secretary General of the IWG Women and Sport, Lisa O’Keefe said: “The first session of the Women’s Sport Investment Accelerator brought together sports rightsholders from a range of sports from across the UK, which was brilliant to see, as well as industry experts and potential investors. I heard some excellent discussions taking place about the current commercial landscape, the factors driving the growth in investment, and what the learnings have been from the past, and I’m now looking forward to seeing what opportunities will emerge.”