Money troubles and problems ahead? The financial health of professional women’s football clubs in England

Beth G. Clarkson, Daniel Plumley, Christina Philippou, Robert Wilson, Tom Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Despite multiple structural changes since its 2011 inception, many English Women’s Super League (WSL) clubs have recorded losses and carried debt, leading to concerns about the financial health of the league. This study is the first to analyse the financial health of any professional women’s sports league in the world. We examine WSL club finances between 2011-2019, theoretically situate the findings within joint production, and make policy recommendations.Methodology: 73 annual accounts of 14 WSL clubs between 2011-2019 were scrutinised.Findings: Since 2011, club revenue has increased 590%, but is outstripped by club debt increase (1,351%). We find poor financial health throughout the league which may damage both its and the clubs’ future growth. Findings also indicate an emergent group of dominant clubs on and off the pitch which may threaten long-term sporting integrity and disrupt the joint production of the WSL product. Practical Implications: Women’s football exists at an important crossroad, and its next moves need careful consideration in relation to its governance structures and league design. Originality: We provide a roadmap for necessary action (e.g., revenue distribution, licensing criteria, rewards) to protect the financial health of the WSL’s clubs and promote sporting competition to assist the sport to capitalise further on positive gains in recent years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563-581
Number of pages19
JournalSport, Business and Management: An International Journal
Volume13
Issue number5
Early online date10 Aug 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • sport finance
  • football finance
  • Women’s Super League
  • women’s sport
  • joint production

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