Progress, opportunity and star power at Uefa Women's Euro 2022.

For three weeks, across ten stadiums in eight English cities, Uefa Women’s Euro 2022 will set a new benchmark for women’s sport.

It promises to be one of the year’s biggest sports events by any measure. According to European football confederation Uefa, over 500,000 tickets were sold ahead of kick-off on 6th July, with the opening match between England and Austria delivering a tournament record crowd of 68,871.

That will almost certainly be broken again when Wembley Stadium hosts the final on 31st July. Such has been the growth in the interest of the women’s game that England’s Football Association (FA) has even been accused of being too conservative in the size of venues it selected back in 2018.

Uefa has also predicted an economic impact of £54 million for the host cities, and anticipates a global broadcast audience in excess of 250 million. In recent years it has decoupled commercial packages for its men’s and women’s properties, encouraging new brands to support women’s football and incentivising them to back that commitment with marketing spend.

That means that familiar football sponsors like Heineken and Adidas have been joined by relative newcomers such as electronics retailer Euronics. The local organising committee’s partners are an even more interesting mix. Jewellery company Pandora and financial challenger brand Starling are joined by toymaker Lego and LinkedIn, which is targeting young female professionals and entrepreneurs.

Those businesses will be courting a fanbase that promises to be broader and more diverse than for any previous edition. Alongside the dedicated following for women’s football will come families and the ‘big eventers’ ready to join in for an exciting summer occasion.

Beyond all of that, Women’s Euro 2022 is an opportunity to move perceptions and expectations forward. Increasingly, that means putting players front and centre.

The profiles of the world’s leading female footballers have been rising for over a decade, in a trend that has accelerated through the last couple of tournament cycles. More than ever before, fans will recognise the top stars not just from previous appearances for the 16 national teams but also their exploits in domestic competitions.

The marketing around the tournament has developed to reflect this. Two nights before the opening match, England kit partner Nike beamed a 43-metre high image of captain Leah Williamson on to London’s Tower Bridge, while projections of teammates Lucy Bronze, Demi Stokes and Keira Walsh also appeared on landmarks across the British capital.

Starling Bank is the supporter of a fantasy sports game for the tournament, the first in Uefa Women’s Euro history. Telecoms brand EE has brought together an elite collection of men’s and women’s players for its Hope United campaign. Under the tagline ‘Not Her Problem’, it is highlighting the problem of misogyny and sexist abuse online and offline, while pointing users to the tools to block and report offensive posts and create safer spaces.

There will be a contest to follow Women’s Euro 2022 as the major leagues and clubs seek the best talent and the greatest share of fan attention.

The FA will create a new subsidiary for its Women’s Super League in the near future and says it has already turned away interest from private equity investors. The European club champions, Olympique Lyonnais, are based in France; FC Barcelona of Spain have twice drawn crowds of over 91,000 at the Camp Nou in 2022. The Uefa Women’s Champions League now has a flourishing global media platform, through a partnership with DAZN and YouTube.

Women’s football in 2022 offers partners fast-expanding interest and an arena for creativity, but it is ultimately those on the pitch who are ready to capture the imagination.

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