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The total value of the women's sport sector in Australia could peak at $3.8 billion by 2032 and contribute a third of all growth in professional sport, according to new research from Accenture.
However, growth in the women's sport sector could only be maintained if key issues such as workplace inequality are tackled, according to the 'Women in Sport – The State of Play in Australia' report.
The study was authored by a team including Accenture managing director, media and entertainment Scott Dinsdale and Accenture Strategy managing director, Karen White.
Surging women's sport and the key challenges of sustaining the sector will be on the agenda at next month's Sponsorship News Conference in Melbourne: see the full line-up and get your tickets here
White and Dinsdale estimate that women's sport would quadruple in total value by 2032, from "sub-$1b" to more than $3.8 billion, which would make up one-third of total professional sport growth in the period.
The projection was based on forecast annual growth for all sport of 2.75% over the next 15 years, and allocating a "parity goal" of a 60/40 split of investment between men’s and women’s sport. The study set a starting benchmark valuation of $10.5 billion for "commercialised sport" and projected the growth out to 2032.
However, the report noted that the "[assumption] of reaching a parity target within a sporting generation," would be unlikely, and revised the estimation to 50% of its goal, which also accounted for some cannibalisation of men's revenue.
The researchers said challenges for the growth of womens sport included, developing the infrastructure for female players, a drop-off in participation, and a crowded grassroots field.
Dinsdale and White also argued that the "glacial pace" of workplace equality and the casualisation of female workers may have led to acceptance of the "part-time nature of elite sportswomen," and said such an attitude must be overcome.
"Pay equality is a critical factor in motivating girls to aspire to the elite levels of sport. If girls don’t see an opportunity to translate commitment to sport into a profession they will choose other paths that do," they said.
The report suggested that administrators adopt a "start-up attitude" towards investment and return in women's sport.
"It is time for disruptive, entrepreneurial thinking in the development of women’s sport at all levels… For traditionally male codes this includes an acknowledgement that the core metric is growth, before revenue," the report stated.
The measures of near-term success will be different from men’s codes, the report says, at least in the beginning. Metrics of engagement, excitement, interaction and reputation, among participants and supporters at all levels, both men and women, "will be the best guideposts in the near term," said White and Dinsdale.