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Joanne O’Riordan: Why we should care about women’s soccer

With correct marketing in a rapidly changing digital world, there are opportunites

At the launch of the national women’s soccer league in March were Ciara Delany (Kilkenny United), Louise Corrigan (Peamount United), Kylie Murphy (Wexford Youths), Pearl Slattery (Shelbourne), Meabh de Burca (Galway), Emily Cahill (UCD Waves) and Saoirse Noonan (Cork City). Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

“Sport is now the only potential discipline where you can engage very high numbers of people. It still provides one of the few moments that is broadcast live where having a replay doesn’t make sense. When it comes to sport, Netflix has zero value.”Jean Pierre Diernaz, vice-president of marketing, Nissan Europe

Nobody cares. Who would watch that? These are the general phrases that you get when you reference women in sport. Last Friday in Turners Cross, before Cork City lifted the trophy, the Cork City women’s soccer team were presented to the fans at half time. A simple gesture, but it made women’s soccer accessible.

The young girls watching heroes like Alan Bennett, Mark McNulty and Co were able to see women, people who were like them, showing off their achievements, and they could honour them for creating a double FAI Cup final as Cork City WFC take on UCD Waves before the men’s final of Dundalk v Cork City.

It was not too long ago when I was a small child looking at heroes on the field. For me it was Ronaldinho, Ruud van Nistelrooy and many others. Nowadays there are many female sports stars for younger generations to look up to.

And, sure, people ask, what is the difference, and does it really matter? According to sports specialist Ainoha Azurmandia, founder of Avento Consultoria, modernisation and representation will break the glass ceiling.

It is the tiny aspects that are taken for granted in the men’s game that can mean the world for the women’s game.

Local radio stations in Cork have interviews with managers, coaches and players, thus enabling mothers, daughters and so on to highlight the game. And it’s not just girls too. Since men are the predominant sports viewers, according to studies, engaging male fans is also essential. There are many ways that you can market women’s soccer. Long gone are the days when viewers would call a group of friends over, have a few drinks and watch a game. Traditional TV viewership is declining rapidly as people now consume “live” action in new ways. Twitter and Facebook are both pushing their live broadcasts, which I admit are now becoming my first places to go regarding checking out games.

Watching pre-match warm-ups on Snapchat and the post-match reaction is my first protocol before and after games. No waiting for live press conferences, flick on Snapchat and you’ve a player telling you about the game in no time.

It doesn’t bring a forced PR reaction like watching Martin O’ Neill awkwardly tell RTÉ reporter Tony O’ Donoghue he’s wrong; instead it brings authenticity which is not really seen in sports anymore.

Sponsorship is hugely important in the women’s game. Aside from the obvious fact that it gives women’s teams all-important finance, in return sponsorship provides a new way of delivering content. Gone is the day when sponsorship meant slapping a logo on a jersey, now it entails giving content and fans access to their favourite sports stars.

Women’s sport is not financial suicide by definition. Take the US women’s national soccer team, for example, outselling the men in gate receipts and outperforming them when it comes to revenue.

In a world that is now 24/7, where we are always plugged in, looking at small screens as we move from platform to platform, sport has the power to harmonise marketing messages on a global level, joining audiences together through their shared passions. The transformative power of accessing and seeing the women’s soccer team being honoured cannot be underestimated. And that memory will stick in the minds of those same girls the next time someone tells them “girls can’t play football”. They can, and they do.

These days all you’ve got to do is turn on your TV to watch them. But if we want them to stay on our screens we need to do more than just flick a channel. On Sunday at noon I hope to see fans supporting both teams. I hope to look into the stands and see children and adults looking at the heroes of the future.

Buy a ticket, take your child, and enjoy a fun family day out.