Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

‘Marketing the key to increasing women’s attendance’ says Brentford director Monique Choudhuri

Posted on 9 March 2019 by Connor Woolley

To celebrate International Women’s Day Brentford FC held a conference to discuss how the club can attract more female fans.

The evening — hosted by TalkSport presenter and Brentford fan Natalie Sawyer — began with some striking statistical analyses.

At 26% overall, Natalie explained, the Premier League has seen an increase in women’s attendance. That’s good news.

However, out of the twenty-four Championship clubs, only five could provide any data on female attendance.  

Women’s average attendance last season at the five Championship clubs who provided data

Even without the numbers to back it, diversity in football has definitely seen steady improvement.

“I do think we have come a long way and we can celebrate progress. We can see that there are a lot more women involved in football,” said
Monique Choudhuri. 

“There are still, unfortunately, issues in the game and questions that need to be answered.”

You don’t have to search much to find examples of sexism and bigotry. Type ‘female sports’ into Google and you’ll find something about abuse.

Conversations at the conference about the ‘World Cup babes’ and the sexualization of female fans were raised. The lack of LGBT+ and BAME fans was also discussed.

Embed from Getty Images

“Football clubs are, and always will be, pillars in our communities. Families attending games is nothing new,” said Monique.

“The way in which clubs now attract and engage with families has, however, changed.”

“Clubs now actively seek to engage with communities -families account for a large portion of that community – so family-oriented atmospheres matchdays are incredibly important.”

Interestingly, 81% of female involvement in football stems from attending with a family. This was discussed at the event in detail.

Brentford’s new stadium is the perfect opportunity to grow its fan base. Marketing strategy is key to achieving this growth.

The consensus, during the conference, was good marketing and an inclusive mentality are the best ways Brentford can attract more people. 

“We are currently looking at our farewell to Griffin Park campaign and we are also looking at marketing the new stadium.

“The fact it will be in Hounslow — one of the most diverse areas in London — is fantastic. We want to attract people of all backgrounds to the club.

“We want to show people that Brentford Football Club is a welcoming place and we can use our marketing to channel that,” Monique explained.

The new Brentford Community Stadium under construction in September 2018.
Image: Jim Linwood

One of the suggested ideas, specifically targeting women, from the event seemed to have left a good impression on her. 

“I liked the idea of the day in the life of women at our football club,” she said.

“Telling the stories of our female players, prominent women at the club and female fans would really help spread the message of inclusivity.” 

This idea is good in principle, however, Brentford must be careful about how they market this concept.

Marketing campaigns often present polished versions of the truth. They must avoid offending people with an overly politicised and unrealistic campaign. 

Monique acknowledged these issues and knows the club must do more to be inclusive and not stereotypically white, male and middle class.  

“We need to make sure that we have a good strategic plan,” she said.

“Many people are not aware that we are not only trying to get more women playing football, but also watching.

“Because we are gathering enough data, showing our evidence during events such as this, it shows Brentford are serious about this topic.” 

Perhaps football, and Brentford, can take note from rugby. The Rugby Football Union has a specific women and girls strategy.

It plans to double the number of female participants by 2021 and increase the number of women’s teams by more than 75%.

Women’s overall involvement is skyrocketing. A record crowd is expected for the women’s Six Nations game between England and Italy.

Embed from Getty Images

Women’s attendance at major footballing fixtures is steadily increasing. The Women’s FA Cup final is exemplary, with record attendances year on year since 2015.

“I do think we are better at big-ticket fixtures such as finals and internationals. Women’s attendance at the World Cup was astonishing.”

“What we need to do is sustain that interest and enthusiasm after these events,” Monique said. 

Since becoming fully professional this season, however, Women’ Super League attendances have dropped by 11%.

This is perhaps down to the switch from a summer league to playing, at the same time as the men, in the winter.

Smaller clubs like Brentford need to do things slightly differently. They are doing the right thing by not only having discussions but also taking action.

If they continue to plan effectively, with clear strategic goals for diversity, they could achieve something special. 

Featured photograph/Brentford FC