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UEFA makes case for investing in women's soccer. Everyone should listen | Opinion

Let’s call it the latest multimillion-dollar reason to invest in women’s sports.

The governing body for European soccer, UEFA, recently published a groundbreaking report that outlined the off-field potential for European women’s soccer — and the numbers are impressive. This matters for the women’s game globally, as it continues to experience record-breaking success in the United States and around the world, and as the sport as a whole prepares to take center stage during the men’s World Cup later this year.

The 59-page report defines the value of the women’s game based on four key elements: fan and community engagement; commercial activity; image; and the sport itself. The findings are plenty, but there are some key takeaways.

The fan base for women’s soccer is expected to balloon from an existing 144 million fans to potentially 328 million fans by 2033, the report predicts. The women’s game also attracts a new type of fan, with one in three fans of the women’s game new to the sport in general. That raging popularity was encapsulated at this year’s UEFA Women’s EURO championship game, when a record crowd of 87,192 fans watched England defeat Germany at Wembley Stadium last month.

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Most impressive, though, is the report predicts the commercial value of the sport to potentially increase six-fold over the next decade — reaching an annual value of €686 million by 2033. The value of club sponsorship is also expected to increase six-fold to €295 million by 2033.

England’s Chloe Kelly, right, celebrates after scoring her side’s second goal during the Women’s Euro 2022 final against Germany at Wembley Stadium.

This report is a result of UEFA’s Time for Action campaign, which is the governing body’s strategy for women’s soccer. The strategy launched in 2019 with the goal of doubling the number of female players in Europe by 2024. Since then, the growth has been astronomical.

It proves that by investing thoughtfully in the sport, growth and commercial success will follow.

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Here in the United States, the valuation for teams in the National Women’s Soccer League just keeps growing. In New Jersey, Gotham FC recently wowed the business sports world when Sportico reported that the team was being invested in at a $40 million valuation — at the time considered one of the most expensive teams in the league. The team has seen record investment from iconic sports names, including former stars of multiple sports, such as Carli Lloyd, Sue Bird, Kevin Durant and Eli Manning. There have since been reports that Angel City FC’s valuation was upwards of $100 million — putting the team in a league of its own and raising the bar for existing and potentially new teams in the NWSL.

Having a healthy competition overseas raises the game, tactically and on the business side. That’s especially the case when you have players who have the luxury of choosing between the European and American leagues.

The UEFA report concludes with five key actions for leagues, clubs and partners to develop the women’s game — from developing concrete strategies and business plans, to raising standards and professionalism in the game off the pitch. It also advises for stakeholders to “build on the unique strengths of the women’s game.”

Those suggestions could very easily be followed by stakeholders anywhere the women’s game is played.

Women & Sport is a NorthJersey.com column devoted to female athletes from the rec league level to those in college and the pros. If you’ve got a tip on an athlete from North Jersey who should be noted in the column, no matter how young they are or how old, please drop me a line at anzidei@northjersey.com.

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: UEFA makes case for investing in women’s soccer. It’s an easy pitch