Amy Drucquer, founder of This Fan Girl, an online community project for female football fans, urged pubs to seize the opportunity presented by the sporting competition.
In 2015, the tournament was watched by 764m viewers and FIFA hopes enthusiasm created by the England men team’s success last summer will encourage even more viewers for this year’s competition.
Female fans are often hypersexualised in media coverage and imagery, Drucquer explained at an industry briefing event organised by Match Pint.
Such perceptions can make it “intimidating and lonely” for women to go to the pub by themselves to watch a game, she said.
The project organises meet-ups in London and Manchester where female fans can watch games together at the pub.
Drucquer predicted the World Cup would be the biggest audience for women’s football “by a country mile”, as interest, investment and participation in women’s football are all at their highest ever levels.
The Lionesses are predicted to do well in the competition and could even meet the US for a rematch of the recent SheBelieves Cup, which England won. Such a meeting could mean an “exciting moment of fan rivalry” of a comparable level to England v Germany men’s team matches.
Some 56% of respondents to a survey from MatchPint said they would watch the games in a pub this summer, as opposed to 6% just at home.
However, 37% of people said they would be watching the tournament at a combination of both a pub and home.
Stopping punters from “falling back on the sofa”, will be a key battle for publicans said Dom Collingwood, the co-founder of MatchPint.
Paul Filler, from Magnify Marketing agency, called women’s football a “prime example” of an opportunity for growth.
Young people are drinking less but when they do, it is for occasions, he said.
However, these customers are “not quick wins,” he said.
“You have to start to think long term. This is a huge opportunity if we get it right”.
Use the memory of last summer. Use the nostalgia of the men's 2018 World Cup when communicating to punters. A peak audience of 26.5m people watched England go out of the World Cup against Croatia last year, and pubs were at the forefront of the tournament’s excitement. Several sites introduced offers related to the games and some even went for rebrands themed around Gareth Southgate or his players.
Be bold. “Nobody will ask you to turn anything on”, Filler said. Pubs must zone effectively and be clear about when and where matches will be screened, especially to unfamiliar faces. Sites must communicate “meaningfully, proudly, and boldly,” added Drucquer. She said nervous and light announcements would be a disappointment to fans and could fail to attract new viewers.
Research the players. Make sure your staff know who is who on the England team and can talk about upcoming matches in a way that will excite customers. And when speaking about the team, don’t use language that compares the women’s and men’s teams. “We want to hear you be loud and proud and celebrate Lionesses,” said Drucquer.
Start now. It is unlikely your pub will draw in many new faces if you only begin promoting screenings a couple of weeks before the tournament starts. Instead, be ahead of the curve and start letting people know now.
Think long term. Pubs need to “get behind women’s football with their hearts. See this as a long-term commitment to women’s football not just for this summer,” said Druquer. Equally, Filler suggested publicans ask themselves where they see the site with the sport in two or even five years.