Prof. Researches Explains How Women’s Sports Can Grow Fan Bases

Published: July 22, 2015 | Author: Tommy Gugino | Read Time: 2 minutes

Professor David Berri, renowned sports economistWhen the United States Women’s Soccer Team beat Japan in the 2015 World Cup Final it became the highest-rated television broadcast of a soccer game in the U.S. Yet, it when came to studying the following of the Women’s National Soccer League the numbers are much lower than their male counterparts in the Major Soccer League, or any male sport. 

David Berri, Southern Utah University professor of economics has been researching the effects of women’s sports and the reason it lags in fan base. In a recent Times article, he reported what it will take for women’s sports to grow across the country.

“The major professional sports leagues for women are in their infancy,” said Berri in his Time article. “The WNBA and professional women’s fast pitch has only been around for about 20 years. Professional women’s soccer has an even shorter history. To expect a league that is this young to have the fan following we see in more mature sports leagues is unrealistic.”

Comparing women’s sports to that of National Football League, which was formed in 1920, and Major League Baseball, formed in 1875, Berri explains that women’s sports need time to grow.

“A fan has to make the investment of time to get to know the players,” he said. “In sports, familiarity breeds interest: If you don’t know who you are watching, it’s hard to be invested in the outcome of the game.”

Berri is certain women’s sports fandom will increase as leagues develop, a conclusion he has come about in years of professional sports economics research.

Sports economics is a growing field, a field that Berri didn’t even knew existed while growing up in Detroit. Always having an interest in baseball, basketball and football, and he stated that when he started down the economic path, he had no idea that it would carry into career. 

“When I was a graduate student I was looking for a research topic for a paper I was writing,” he said. “And I couldn’t think of anything I was really interested in and there was a footnote in this book I was reading that talked about measuring the economic contribution of a baseball player. And that was the first time I had heard you could apply economics to sports.”

Berri originally started his career by writing about baseball and basketball economics, which eventually led him to writing about a variety of topics in sports. He has now written more than 50 articles on sports economics. 

He often appears on national television to comment on economic issues with sports, most recently appearing on MSNBC’s Sports Matters. This summer Berri has appeared in a slew of national publications including Vice Sports, Deseret News, among many others.

Berri is the co-author of The Wages of Win and Stumbling on Wins: Two Economists Expose the Pitfalls on the Road to Victory in Professional Sports and continues to serve on the editorial board of both the Journal of Sports Economics and the International Journal of Sport Finance.

Contact Information:

Contact the Office of Marketing Communication

This article was published more than 5 years ago and might contain outdated information or broken links. As a result, its accuracy cannot be guaranteed.