Women’s Football: Leagues, Cups, Popularity & Money

Female Footballers Dead Heat

Women’s football is an area of the betting industry that is starting to see increased traction in recent times. The sport has been about for a fair while now, but admittedly, bookies have been slow on the uptake and in general betting terms the markets and coverage are weak, especially compared to that of the men’s game.

However, as the sport continues to develop, with viewing figures and participation numbers on the increase no doubt helped by the England Women’s team, we are now starting to see more bookies get involved with women’s football.

This article will guide you through what’s on offer at the minute and also highlight aspects of the industry that we think will start to grow over the coming years.

International Football

England Women vs USA Women
joshjdss / CC BY

The international scene is really starting to thrive, and it’s probably here that gives the best reflection as to the growth of the sport. The FIFA Women’s world Rankings came into effect in 2003, and since then has seen over 170 nations included in the system. To put this into some perspective, the men’s game has 211 official nations, which shows that the women’s game is being played in a very high number of eligible countries.

The ranking system has been a catalyst for the advancement of the game on an international scale, and although a vast majority of international women’s games are friendlies, it has provided a base for improvement and also signifies which nations are nurturing and developing their teams most successfully.

The rankings are back dated to include every international match played right from 1971, which was the first FIFA-recognised match between that of France and the Netherlands. This differs from the men’s in that they only include games from the last 4 years. It’s believed that the women’s game will use the same time frame as the number of games that each nation plays begins to increase.

Womens International Rankings

The FIFA Women’s World Cup is the pinnacle of the game and has taken place every 4 years since 1991. The tournament is very similar to that of the men’s in that it includes a qualification phase, group stage, and then a knockout stage, before deciding the winner.

The United States are the most successful team with 3 wins to their name, with Germany second on 2 wins, and Norway and Japan both with 1 win a piece. Attendances for tournaments have been strong as well, and growth from the initial 1991 World Cup in China to now has been impressive:

  • China 1991 World Cup Total Attendance: 510,000
  • France 2019 World Cup Total Attendance: 1,131,312

As more nations develop their women’s football team and improve on the foundations that have already been laid, it is likely that the number of teams will grow from 24 to 32 and work in the same way as that of the men’s World Cup.

There are actually a number of other tournaments that are held around the world for the women’s game outside of the World Cup. These are made up of invitational tournaments and whilst they aren’t of the same prestige as the World Cup, they do come with ranking points. Tournaments include:

  • Algarve Cup
  • Cyprus Cup
  • SheBelieves Cup
  • Istria Cup
  • Four Nations Tournament

Whilst these aren’t run by official governing bodies, there are plenty of tournaments that are. These include the likes of the UEFA Women’s championship, Copa America Femenina and the Pan American Games both run by CONMEBOL, AFC Women’s Asia Cup and Asian Games run by AFC, Africa Women Cup of Nations run by CAF, and the Women’s Nations Cup run by the OFC.

Domestic Leagues

West Ham Ladies Squad
joshjdss / CC BY

Domestic football is probably where the most progress has been made with the women’s game, and whilst standards vary dramatically, there are some excellent teams that take part within Europe and around the world.

England has one of the strongest leagues in the form of the Super League. This is the equivalent to the men’s Premier League and the best teams in the country compete to win it. The league started life in 2011 and initially only included 8 teams. Each team were allowed to sign 4 professional players who were able to earn an annual wage of £20,000 or more. We talk more on salaries and money within the women’s game later in this article.

As the league has developed, the number has increased to 11 teams, with plans of hitting 14 teams on course for some time before 2025. Initial plans to have semi-professional teams were scrapped and clubs are now deemed to be fully professional.

Outside of Europe, the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States is probably the next biggest domestic league on offer. It’s been running since 2012 so is still pretty new, but often the money on offer is more than that of within Europe, luring the world’s best out to the US to play. The league includes 9 teams, with each team playing a total of 24 games across the season.

Comparing Men’s and Women’s Teams

Man Utd First Team and Womens Team

What you will find in the women’s game is that the teams are built, for the most part, within already established football clubs. For example, teams within the Super League include the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, and West Ham United, all massive Premier League outfits with money to burn.

The women’s teams have been designed as extensions of the club, and whilst the games are run very differently they are similar to say the reserve team or any junior team would. The success of the men’s and women’s teams aren’t necessarily related though, with Manchester United only entering a team into the second division of the women’s game (Championship) for the 2018/19 season.

That said, not all teams are linked to big clubs, and there have been several “start-up” teams that have cropped up throughout the UK. In the Championship, teams like Durham, London Bees, and Lewes are essentially new clubs, not associated to any highly ranked men’s team. Whilst these teams are at a huge disadvantage financially, it is thought that more franchises like this will start to appear in the game as it continues to grow.

This is fertile ground at the moment because there isn’t so much money in the women’s game creating the same disparity between teams as there is in the men’s game. It’s even been said that men’s teams could develop off the back of the success of women’s teams, which would go against current trends and be massively exciting to see.


Neymar Jr
Credit: Antoine Dellenbache Flickr

Whilst there are many differences between the men’s and women’s game, the money side of things is probably the biggest. In a recent study carried out by a national newspaper, it was revealed that Neymar Jr., who plays for PSG in France, earns £32.9million per year. This sum is more than all of the 1,693 women who represent teams in the top-flight women’s leagues in France, Germany, England, USA, Sweden, Australia, and Mexico earn combined! (REF: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/5003239/neymar-womens-football-leagues-gender-pay-gap/)

Just let that sink in.

The financial disparity between the two sports is vast, and even though the women’s game doesn’t have anywhere near the same global appeal as the men’s the numbers are still shocking. However, the women’s game is growing at a rapid pace and the inclusion of professional teams alongside increased exposure through TV and advertising deals will likely see these numbers creep up over the next decade or so.

Female footballer’s salaries aren’t as widely discussed as men’s; every Tom, Dick and Harry know what male players earn per week, but for the women’s game it’s a little more low-key and can range quite significantly.

Lucy Bronze England
Lucy Bronze EL Loko / CC BY

The top earners in the Women’s Super League will likely be on around £35,000 per year. In 2017 it was reported that the average weekly wage surpassed £50,000 in the men’s game, with many earning significantly more. However, there are female players that earn more than this, with Lucy Bronze, who plays for French side Lyon, earning a reported £145,000 per year.

An important factor in this is that the women’s game in England has followed that of the US, introducing salary caps for their players. This means that clubs are only allowed to spend 40% of their annual turnover on player wages, something that the men’s game does not need to take into consideration.

This decision has been vital to the success of the women’s game and means that teams set up from already established and highly lucrative men’s teams aren’t able to simply buy success. It’s up to the clubs to attract bigger crowds and more sponsors in order to increase their turnover and therefore their salary budget.

The Cost of Women’s Football

As you can tell, the numbers for the women’s game compared to that of men’s are almost negligible. We spoke earlier about Manchester United finally submitting a women’s team for the 2019 season at a reported cost of £5million. To put that into perspective, it’s about 2 months wages for both Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez.

Getting information on all Super League teams isn’t all that easy as many are registered as small businesses, but Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal, and Manchester City have all filled accounts under Companies House:

Womens Football Money

As you can see from the data above, aside from Everton, they have all lost money over the last 4 years, but even Manchester City’s loss of almost £1.5million is a drop in the ocean for such a rich club. It would be a fraction of their weekly wage bill in real terms.

Even though the teams are running at a loss, it offers good press for these clubs and is a savvy long-term investment. It shows they are keen to bridge gender inequality within the sport and this can only be a good thing for the game. The women’s game will likely never reach the same levels of popularity as the men’s, but that’s not the point. The fact they are there in the first place is a great step, and there is plenty of potential for the sport to take off.

Prize Money

Arsenal Win Womens Super League
Katie Chan / CC BY-SA

The prize money in the women’s game is very modest, especially compared with the men’s. In fact, football has one of the biggest disparities in prize money of any sport in the world.

To give that some context, when Chelsea won the Premier League in 2016/17, they were awarded £38million for their efforts. Manchester City, who won the Women’s Super League in 2017, weren’t paid a penny for that achievement. In fact, all clubs are paid a flat fee from a “Club Development Fund” of just £70,000. The winners of the Women’s FA Cup received just £25,000 compared to the men’s £1.8million, over 7 times the total prize fund for the entire tournament.

The numbers continue to disappoint outside of England as well. Real Madrid were awarded £13.5million for winning the Champions League, whilst Lyon, who won the women’s equivalent, were awarded just £220,000. The World cup winners in the men’s game are awarded £5million, whilst the women’s awarded just £2million in comparison.

TV Viewing Figures

Womens Football on TV

Whilst some people palm off the women’s game, usually for misogynistic reasons, the numbers are starting to speak for themselves. The 2017 Women’s European Championships was a particularly important stepping stone for the sport.

Channel 4 were the host broadcasters in the UK and enjoyed 4million people tuning in to watch England v Netherlands. It was the highest broadcasting figures for the Channel so far that year, and a massively leap from the 2.4million that tuned into the World Cup in Canada some 2 years prior.

Other countries are seeing huge growth as well. The likes of Germany had over 7million watch their matches in the 2017 European Championships; over ¼ of the overall TV viewing figures. In the US, over 25million watched them win the 2015 World Cup final, which is a huge number.

But, domestically in England at least, viewing figures declined by almost 11% during the 2016/17 season for the Women’s Super League 1, mainly due to the switch back to a winter schedule running alongside the men’s game, instead of running throughout the summer.

Betting on Women’s Football

Like the sport itself, the betting markets are still for women’s football are still developing. They are being adapted seemingly on a weekly basis, and whilst coverage is growing the comparison to men’s football betting leaves a lot to be desired.


Womens Football Betting

The first thing to be aware of is that the number of bookies that cover women’s football is much lower than you might think. We’ve been able to conduct a fair amount of research on the sport and were quite surprised to see how low the coverage was overall.

It wasn’t even a case of the bigger bookies offering markets and matches while the smaller ones didn’t, it seemed to be pretty random and some of the world’s biggest betting brands weren’t offering any markets at all.

It isn’t all bad news though, and there are plenty of bookies that do offer a decent range of betting lines. You can often get around 20-50 markets for each of the Super League games in England, which is on par with some of the men’s lower leagues at some bookies.

The range of markets that are on offer are pretty good though, and you will certainly get the basics thoroughly covered. The likes of outright winner, both teams to score, over/under 2.5 goals, selected handicap bets, draw no bet, correct score, and first goalscorer markets are some of the more common ones to pick from.

Wide Margins


Whilst coverage is an issue that will eventually resolve itself, it actually works in the punters favour in the short-term.

The games can be quite hard to research as many teams change quite frequently, so that means prices can fluctuate from one bookie to another. The difference between them can be quite big and as they have little to go on in terms of competition it means that value can be found.

The flip side is that the bookies often need to cover their backs and to do so the margins can be higher which means worse odds on the whole. Low volume from a punter’s perspective can be hit and miss, so it’s important to know when to strike to get the best prices.

Is it More Lucrative than Betting on Men’s Football?

Enhanced Profit

It can be, but you need to work harder to find value. There are key fundamentals when betting on any football match, things such as form, starting line ups, formations, injuries, and head to head comparisons can be great starting blocks to compile bets from.

The information for the women’s game is much less readily available than that of the men’s game though, so it’s not always easy to research. This works both ways though, as you and the bookie are both going to have the same problem. If you are able to get some information regarding elements that could influence a game, then this could be gold dust.

Like all sports, it comes down to how hard you want to work. Betting on women’s football requires more elbow grease than most sports, but the rewards could be that much higher too. Plus, getting in and building your knowledge while the game is in its fledgling period may prove very lucrative as time goes on.