Women’s Sport: celebrating a groundbreaking 2022 and examining the theme for 2023 and beyond

// 2022 // 

We all know that 2022 marked an historic year for women’s sport, with records smashed and groundbreaking cultural moments occurring both on and off the playing field. The global success of both individual athletes and teams across various sporting disciplines has sparked a catalyst for change and signifies what appears to be only the beginning of the unceasing reach of women’s sport. 

At Fifty Digital, we have been increasing our commitment to women’s sport over the past year, with a mission to support both the athletes, the brands and the rights holders involved in becoming truly unstoppable. To aid this mission, we’ve been reflecting on some of the most interesting statistics from the past year to help us focus our work through 2023 and beyond. 

Overall, British TV viewership of women’s sport was seven times greater than in 2012 and the coverage on key channels increased from just 3% to 17% in 2022*

There was also an increase in elite female athletes being spotlighted in advertisements, such as BBC ‘We Know Our Place’, Gatorade ‘Love Means Everything’ and Nike ‘Never Settle, Never Done’. 

The final that saw the Lionesses become UEFA Women’s EUROs 2022 Champions, was the most attended and viewed EURO’s match of all time, across both the men’s and women’s tournaments. 2022 also saw the most successful women’s Rugby World Cup ever, with sold out games and both attendance and viewership records being broken. 

In tennis, for the first time ever, Wimbledon women’s and men’s final tickets were sold at the same price, ending a 31-year discrepancy*.

Other favourites of ours included the first official Tour de France Femmes taking place in July. Also at the beginning of the year, 45% of the athletes at the Beijing Winter Olympics were women*. And of course, Beth Mead became the first female footballer to win the Sports Personality of the Year Award. 

There are multiple stories from the sporting world from 2022, based on unashamed embracing of womanhood and what it means to be a woman – with progression in openness, conversation and authenticity. With the modern day super-influencer no longer being the actress or musician, it is now clear that the athlete is creating a new pathway to empower and inspire the new generation. 

So far so good. 

But this is far from the whole story. This week, in new research published by Football Beyond Borders, we’ve seen that the Lionesses’ win has had “little effect” on inner-city teenage girls’ engagement with women’s football with 63% unable to name a Lioness and a staggering 67% not following any players at all on social media*. This is quite specific research centred on one audience group. However, it was our highest profile sporting success of recent years, so it made for some tough reading. 

So what can we do as an agency in the industry to really show our respect for women’s sport and help to make real change beyond just supporting from the sidelines?


// 2023 // 

Looking forward to what is set to be another monumental year for women’s sport, we have already seen significant advancements in 2023, with a common theme; action.

There have been notable policy enhancements across much of the sports industry. Wales’ men and women senior football players will receive equal pay for representing their country this year*. There are new maternity, pregnant parent and adoption policies for England’s Red Roses*, while Iceland’s football captain has won a landmark maternity pay ruling, which acts as a “wake up-call for all clubs”*. The South Australian State Government is investing $1M into the legacy of the upcoming Women’s World Cup, in a bid to grow grassroots participation, develop women’s leadership and enhance safety* and both the Lionesses and England Hockey have revised and adapted their kit regulations to allow all players to feel comfortable and included when playing the sport*. Policy enhancements indicate change at the highest level, showing the industry is positively shifting focus towards women’s welfare and wellbeing.

We have also seen a number of notable campaigns and initiatives in 2023 already. Correct The Internet is a project launched to help make sports women more visible, as search engines have learnt to prioritise sportsmen in search results, even when the facts put sportswomen first*. Former England cricketer, Isa Guha, has also launched the Got Your Back initiative to help women and girls reach their full potential in cricket while empowering inclusivity and diversity*. The increase in campaigns and initiatives launched by athletes and otherwise, shows the recognition and passion for change for women and girls in sport. 

Additionally, this year we have already seen some significant lifetime achievements. Rebecca Welch has become the first woman to referee a men’s Championship match, after last year, being the first woman to referee an FA Cup third-round tie*. At this year’s The Best FIFA Football Awards, Mary Earps, one of England’s standout players at the UEFA Women’s EUROs, was crowned as The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper for 2022*. After landing a trick that no-one has ever done before at a women’s event, Mia Brookes, became the youngest world champion in snowboarding history*. Still to come this year, England’s Red Roses are pursuing a fifth Six Nations title, whilst achieving a record crowd when facing France for the final match of the tournament, which is a real sign of how much the women’s game has grown*. Being four months into this year, we are looking forward to seeing the influx of outstanding achievements that are still to come from 2023. 

None of these things would have been achievable without people speaking out, fighting for what’s right and taking some risk, and we applaud them all.


// IWD //

A month on from International Women’s Day, it’s still obvious that as a society we still have a long way to go in continuing to advance the space for women in sport both professionally and as athletes; with the need to make it a wholly inclusive and supportive environment ever present. 

This years International Women’s Day theme was #EmbraceEquity – the desire for a gender equal world, that is diverse, equitable and inclusive*. When we look at the landscape for women in sport, the industry is still very much at a growth phase, with constant learning and development instrumental to progression. 

Social change occurs when a society adopts a new behaviour, which then becomes widely accepted as the norm. It is usually a result of minority influence, whereby the persistence and commitment of a minority group dictates societal change. In the world of sport, such change is dependent on the support from influential people and organisations. Take our client FIFA, who have declined TV rights bids for the Women’s World Cup from global broadcasters after deeming offers to be too low. Romy Gai, FIFA’s Chief Business Officer is a clear ally for the women’s game, stating “[it is a] testament to a lack of willingness of broadcasters to pay what the women’s game deserves”*. Again, action, not just words.


// Conclusion // 

With a busy upcoming sporting calendar, including multiple global team events (highlights here), there is the potential for 2023 to be another unprecedented year for women’s sports across all disciplines. Here at Fifty Digital we are looking forward to working with our clients to continue empowering women in sport, whilst ensuring to continue to have a voice supporting women within the industry. And closer to home, we are committed to continuing our support for the brilliant Women’s Sport Trust through 2023 as well as setting up our own exciting women’s sport programme, with action at its heart. Watch this space.




BBC Sport

Give Me Sport


Football Beyond Borders

BBC Sport 

England Rugby

BBC Sport

Football South Australia

England Hockey

Correct The Internet

BBC Sport

BBC Sport


BBC Sport

Sky Sports

International Women’s Day

Inside World Football