Handbook on the Economics of Women in Sports
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Handbook on the Economics of Women in Sports

Edited by Eva Marikova Leeds and Michael A. Leeds

Women’s sports have received much less attention from economists than from other social scientists. This Handbook fills that gap with a comprehensive economic analysis of women’s sports. It also analyzes how the behavior and treatment of female athletes reflect broad economic forces.
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Chapter 17: The economic impact of the Women’s World Cup

Dennis Coates


The Women’s World Cup is arguably the most prominent international women’s sporting contest. This prominence comes despite having begun in only 1991. Since then, it has enjoyed robust growth. At the first event, held in China, 12 teams competed in six venues, four of which had seating capacity of 15,000 or less. The largest venue had a seating capacity of 60,000, but the second largest could hold only 25,000. When Germany hosted the World Cup in 2011, 16 teams played in nine host cities in much larger facilities. Only two of the stadiums had a capacity of less than 25,000 and none seated fewer than 20,000. Attendance at the two events is difficult to compare because the 1991 figures look suspicious. All the official attendance figures are reported in thousands and are too similar to the reported capacities of the venues and sometimes even exceed them. Even accepting the apparently inflated Chinese figures, FIFA (Fédération internationale de football association) documents show that average attendance at the first Women’s World Cup was less than 20,000. In the 1999 tournament, held in the United States, average attendance was 37,319 in eight venues, half of which had a capacity of more than 80,000. The 2007 tournament, which was again in China, had an average attendance of 37,218 in five venues, the smallest of which had a capacity of 33,000.

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