Forget Stereotypes - Male Viewers Are Setting New Records For Women's Football

There will almost certainly be a record set tonight at 8pm when England's women footballers take on Norway in the hope to get to the semifinal of the World Cup in France.

At the same stage four years ago, roughly 2m tuned in, but more than 6m have already watched the current team's last match against Cameroon on Sunday night.

There was huge excitement and controversy surrounding that victory in which the opposition protested by nearly not carrying on with the game after the video referee ruled out what they thought was a perfectly good goal.

So tonight, the 6m who tuned in on Sunday will almost certainly going to increase and set a new record. It will be a huge pat on the back for the team, their sponsors (including late arrival Boots) and the BBC.

Interestingly, GroupM has been crunching the numbers to see who is behind this new phenomenon. The big surprise is that two in three viewers, so far, are male -- putting to bed the myth that men are not interested in the women's game. 

The other interesting aspect is there is a spread of age. When 2,000 people were surveyed, they not only thought there would be a female skew, but also that a majority of viewers would be young. In fact, there is a near even split for the three age groups of 25-34, 45-44 and 45 to 54. 

And finally, there is a skew toward people living in small towns and villages -- which, again, blew up the myth that the tv audiences tuning in were from London or big cities. 

It means that looking into the figures shows that watching women's football shows a skew toward men of all ages, particularly those living outside a large city.

If that has helped brands to understand the audience a little better, the work is now on for the team's sponsors to communicate their involvement with the game and for the BBC to popularise the sport more. That was the takeaway from the research. People are loving the games and can't quite understand why a bigger drum isn't being banged for women's football.

I would agree to a certain extent. The BBC has done a great job in its coverage, but could possibly be promoting the games a little more. Having said that, the results are being given prime billing in news bulletins. As for the sponsors, I suspect some have been taken by surprise at the huge success, and in the case of Boots, it seemed like quite a last-minute move to get involved. 

If you ask me, the best thing that can happen now, other than England bringing home the trophy, is for the team to carry on playing games around the country, as they have done in the run-up to the World Cup.

I took my family to see the Lionesses beat Spain in Swindon and we loved the way it brought the national team to a part of the country that is eager to see top-flight sport. This would empower brands to switch on a whole host of sponsorship activation work where it matters most -- among the fans. 

So this World Cup could usher in big things for women's football in England. It's a phenomenon growing at pace, and with any luck, will bring the Lionesses and their supporting brands to towns around the country over the next four years until the next World Cup is held.

However, I note that the next game England fans can buy is to see the team play at Wembley. I would seriously suggest that the FA considers keeping the women's team on the road. The men's team is seen as a little aloof around the rest of the country for only ever taking to the pitch in the capital. This leave a huge opportunity for the Lionesses to fill that void.

The game needs to get considerable momentum behind it because the host of countries bidding for the 2023 tournament are all several hours ahead or behind the UK, meaning that kickoffs will be at inconvenient times.

It would be a massive shame to see this wave of interest lose some of its momentum.

As for tonight, all we can say is -- watch out for the tv audience figures and then hope they are smashed again with the Lioness's next game, hopefully, in the semifinals.

Is it crazy to wonder if the excitement that is building could nudge tv audiences into double digits of millions? If they reach the final, the weekend after next, I reckon that could be entirely possible.

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