The Women’s Cricket World Cup and another year of broken boundaries.

One of the biggest events of the year so far in women’s team sport starts this week in New Zealand.

Pushed back into 2022 by the Covid-19 pandemic, the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup brings together eight teams for 31 one-day internationals between Friday 4th March and Sunday 3rd April. Despite that delay, it is building on healthy momentum in the women’s game.

Back on 8th March 2020 – International Women’s Day – hosts Australia beat India in the final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, drawing a mammoth 86,174 crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground just weeks before sports venues everywhere began closing to spectators. It was the second-biggest live audience in women’s sports history.

The preceding 50-over tournament in 2017 delivered its own successes, most notably a sell-out at Lord’s for England’s win in their own final against India. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) later credited fan data generated through that tournament with identifying a new, broader cohort of fans. Those insights formed part of the basis of The Hundred, the new short-format tournament it introduced in 2021 that gave women an equal marketing platform – if not equal pay – to male players.

Women’s cricket is reaching parts the men’s game has barely touched – Thailand qualified for the T20 competition two years ago – and will also break further ground with a debut at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this July. Meanwhile, this tournament launches another massively significant year in the evolution of women’s team sport.

New Zealand will welcome another global event, the Women’s Rugby World Cup, in October. Before then, England is hosting Uefa Euro 2022 in July as the growth of women’s football accelerates. The organisers are confident of strong popular interest and have secured some intriguing first-time sponsors: professional social platform LinkedIn will back Euro 2022 as part of its ‘make work work for women’ marketing campaign.

Broadcasters and brand partners are also showing considerable interest in women’s football at club level, where eye-catching deals between the BBC, Sky Sports and England’s Women’s Super League, and DAZN, YouTube and the Uefa Women’s Champions League have continued the drive for new audiences.

The rise of team sports properties is diversifying the women’s sports market beyond mainstays like the Olympics and Grand Slam tennis, and investors are sensing that potential in the US, too. At the start of February, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) closed a $75 million round of funding that will be converted into the long-term commercial transformation of the league.

Ultimately, of course, the progress of women’s sport and its capacity to reach fans will be down to the athletes themselves, and many have shown a willingness to take that responsibility as far as they can. Last month, a six-year legal campaign by players from the world champion US women’s national football team secured a $24 million compensation package from their employers, US Soccer, and a guarantee of equal pay to their male counterparts at all future tournaments and friendlies.

There is some way to go before women’s team sport can say it is on an equal footing in every respect. Still, the potential is there, and so is the purpose.

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