As the highly anticipated Women’s Soccer World Cup commences tomorrow, fans around the world are gearing up to support their favorite teams and players. However, amidst the excitement, there is an unfortunate reality that cannot be overlooked—the persistent lack of merchandise available for this prestigious tournament and other women’s sports. This overarching problem demands urgent attention, as it not only hampers the fans’ experience but also perpetuates a discouraging narrative that female athletes and their accomplishments are insufficiently recognized and celebrated.
Recently, Madeleine Chapman highlighted this issue in women’s rugby in an article titled “The Black Ferns merch store is empty again” (source: The Spinoff, 17 July 2023). Chapman’s piece shed light on the ongoing struggles faced by female athletes, specifically the lack of merchandise availability for the Black Ferns, the New Zealand women’s rugby team and current World Champions. This article takes inspiration from her work and aims to address the wider problem of limited merchandise for female athletes across various sports.
Before my family traveled to the 2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, we experienced firsthand the limited merchandise available for women’s rugby. Despite our excitement for the tournament, we struggled to find the merchandise we desired. While we came across shirts from a few teams, there were only a few jerseys available with players’ names, leaving us disappointed and feeling like our support for the players was not fully recognized.
Our experience at the 2021 Rugby World Cup (RWC) in New Zealand, along with the stories shared by fellow fans, reflects a broader issue regarding the availability of merchandise for female athletes. The limited availability of merchandise not only affects fans’ experiences but also perpetuates the notion that women’s sports are less significant than their male counterparts. It sends a message that female athletes and their achievements are not worthy of recognition and celebration.
However, amidst these challenges, there are bright spots that demonstrate the growing demand and support for female athletes. For instance, the Matildas (Australia women’s soccer team) recently tweeted that they have sold more official jerseys ahead of the World Cup than the men’s team managed during and since the Men’s World Cup in Qatar.
There are a number of reasons why merchandise for female athletes is so limited. One reason is that the sporting goods industry has traditionally been male-dominated. This has led to a focus on marketing products to male athletes, and a lack of investment in developing merchandise for female athletes.
Another reason for the limited availability of merchandise for female athletes is that there is a perception that there is not a large enough market for it. This perception is based on the fact that women’s sports do not receive as much media coverage as men’s sports. as highlighted in our recent article focusing on women’s rugby.
The lack of merchandise for female athletes has a number of negative consequences. First, it prevents young girls from seeing themselves as athletes. When girls do not see themselves represented in sports, they are less likely to participate in sports themselves. Additionally, it’s worth noting that this issue also affects young boys who may admire and want to support female athletes, often expressing a desire to wear women’s jerseys. By limiting the availability of merchandise, we unintentionally hinder young boys from celebrating and appreciating the achievements of their female sports idols. This further reinforces gender stereotypes and restricts the inclusivity of the sports community. This is a problem, as sports can provide a number of benefits for girls and boys alike, including physical fitness, teamwork skills, and self-confidence.
Second, the lack of merchandise for female athletes discourages them from participating in sports. When girls do not have access to merchandise that reflects their interests, they may feel like they do not belong in sports. This can lead to them dropping out of sports altogether.
The good news is that there are a number of things that can be done to address the lack of merchandise for female athletes. One thing that can be done is to increase media coverage of women’s sports. This will help to change the perception that there is not a large enough market for merchandise for female athletes.
Another thing that can be done is to encourage sporting goods companies to invest in developing merchandise for female athletes. This will help to ensure that there is a wider variety of merchandise available for female athletes, and that it is more accessible.
Finally, it is important to support businesses that are already making an effort to provide merchandise for female athletes. This will help to send a message to the sporting goods industry that there is a demand for merchandise for female athletes.
The lack of merchandise for female athletes is a problem that needs to be addressed. By increasing media coverage of women’s sports, encouraging sporting goods companies to invest in developing merchandise for female athletes, and supporting businesses that are already making an effort to provide merchandise for female athletes, we can help to ensure that all girls have the opportunity to see themselves as athletes and participate in sports.