New sponsor to help 460 clubs in Women’s FA Cup market themselves with AI app

By Sports Desk November 22, 2023

Teams at every step of the pyramid will be encouraged to embrace AI as part of a new partnership the Football Association’s director of women’s football hopes will help boost attendances at overlooked local clubs.

On Thursday the FA announced a new three-year deal which will see tech company Adobe take over as title sponsor for the Women’s FA Cup, which this year boasts a doubled prize pot from £3million to £6m.

But while the women’s game has witnessed unprecedented recent growth, particularly following the Lionesses’ Euro 2022 triumph, Baroness Sue Campbell admits clubs below the top tiers have not equally benefitted from the boost.

The FA’s director of women’s football told the PA news agency: “If you’re talking about Newcastle in tier three, they’re getting 20,000 people through the gates already, but you could also be talking about another club at tier three who are lucky if they get two people at a game.

“So we’ve got a long way to go still to get people to commit to come. There are a lot of lessons to learn by looking around, we’ve really done some good looks across at the United States where they get massive audiences for relatively low-tier games, but I think there’s a different culture in the way Americans either play sport or watch it.

“So we are having to build that culture of attending women’s games. The volume of interest is just growing and growing (but) people aren’t used to going and looking at their local women’s team.

“I think that’s what part of this (partnership) is about, using the FA Cup to connect clubs with their local population, their local community, looking at how they generate content which excites people to want to come, which gives them an interest in the individuals that are playing.”

Marketing is key to drawing those audiences, but, like ticket sales, staffing and resources across the lower tiers of English women’s football vary wildly.

Part of the new partnership will see Adobe give access to and train all 460 clubs in the competition on what it describes as an “AI-first” content creation app the FA hopes will allow teams to better market and promote themselves to boost interest and attendances, without putting undue strain on already-stretched staff.

Campbell, who in September announced she will retire from her role at the FA in 2024 after eight years, appreciates a one-size-fits all approach will not work but is optimistic about the technology’s potential.

She said: “We’ll have to think about how we support those clubs that perhaps are the one-person club, where they are trying to organise the post, send out the kit and also do the marketing.

“I hope we can actually enable these people to do things they perhaps don’t even know right now they are capable of doing. I think we will have to tailor it according to what is there, but we’ve got really good intelligence from the FA’s point of view about where every club in that structure is, and I’m sure we can adapt.”

Beyond the practical and potential financial advantage there is, at least for Campbell, also a more philosophical benefit in putting the latest tech in the hands of hundreds of clubs.

She added: “I think women and girls often haven’t had a voice, and certainly not in football. We’re gradually giving them one, and I think therefore the potential is just enormous.”

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