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New study suggests appetite for more women’s sports in Canada

A new study suggests women’s sports have a solid market in Canada.

The report from Canadian Women and Sport found two in three Canadians consider themselves fans of women’s sports.

“A thing that would surprise a lot of people is the balance of men and women who consider them fans of women’s sport – It’s actually a little more men than women,” said Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, CEO of Canadian Women and Sport.

Sandmeyer-Graves said women’s sports are growing in popularity around the world in countries like the U.K., Australia and the U.S.

“I think it’s a reflection of broader societal shifts,” she said. “Also, it’s happening because of investment.

“When media companies, when brands, even when governments see this as a real potential and they put their resources behind it, they’re expanding opportunities.”

The study of 2,000 Canadians suggests eight in 10 women’s sport fans are eager to engage with more sports if given the opportunity.

Sandmeyer-Graves said this presents a “fantastic opportunity” for local investors.

“We have unbelievably talented athletes in this country, but we don’t get to watch them play here,” she said. “Having those opportunities right here in Canada is going to create more opportunities for fans to watch, to attend, to follow online, to buy the merchandise to really lean into that fandom.”

The first Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) saw almost three million Canadians tune in for the first game.

In February, more than 19,000 fans watched Toronto and Montreal face off in Toronto. That’s more than the average regular season attendance for the Edmonton Oilers, according to The Athletic.

“The launch of the PWHL and the success of their first season, I think, has just added more proof that this demand is there,” Sandmeyer-Graves said. “The fans are there and that they’re ready to show up and to do their part.”

Having more homegrown teams and women’s franchises would also benefit those showing up to watch.

“It could play a key role in helping to keep more girls in sport longer, which I think we can agree is a good thing in our communities,” Sandmeyer-Graves said. “It can also produce broader social benefits … It really shifts people’s perceptions about the respect and value for women competing in those spaces, and frankly, hopefully we’ll break down barriers in our society as a whole for women.”

According to the study, one in three girls in Canada drop out of sports in adolescence. That’s compared to just one in 10 boys.

You can access the full study here.

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