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More adults playing football due to WNT’s success

New research from Sky Ireland shows growth in support for WNT ahead of the World Cup

  • 1 in 5 adults say the success of the Irish WNT inspired them to take-up or play football
  • 2 in 5 say they would encourage their children to play football in the future
  • Support of the WNT has grown by 20% amongst men and women
  • 3 in 5 adults will watch the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup
  • 31% of adults believe the Women’s National Team can win the World Cup

As the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team prepare for the biggest tournament of their careers to date, new research from Sky Ireland has shown an increase in support for the team, which has inspired more people in Ireland to get involved in football.

Following on from a whirlwind year, which included World Cup qualification for the first time ever, support for our Women’s Football Team has grown significantly, up 20% - from 54% to 65% - since November 2021, with a strong increase in female supporters. Most significantly, Sky Ireland’s research found that 1 in 5 adults state the success of our Women’s National Team inspired them to take-up or play football, with a further 2 in 5 stating they would encourage their children to play.

The research comes as Sky Ireland launches the second year of its ‘Sky WNT Fund’ which will once again award a fund of €25,000, to assist five Women’s National Team players with their academic studies and career development off the pitch.

At a Sky Ireland event today, celebrating International Women’s Day, team manager, Vera Pauw, WNT players Aine O’Gorman and Saoirse Noonan, newly appointed Head of Women and Girls Football at the FAI, Eileen Gleeson, and FIFA Assistant Referee Michelle O’Neill, discussed the rise in support for women’s football in Ireland, the significance of World Cup qualification and the importance of exposure for continued growth in women’s football. Minister of State for Sport, Thomas Byrne TD, attended the event and paid tribute to the success of our Women’s National Team and their significant positive impact on the growth of women’s sport in Ireland. The event was also attended by former WNT internationals Linda Gorman, Olivia O’Toole, Paula Gorham, Breda Hanlon, Kay Ramsbottom and Jackie McCarthy-O’Brien.

Sky Ireland’s research, which was conducted by Empathy Research, also showed a significant increase in support for our Women’s National Team among both men and women. Numbers of those who have tuned in to watch a WNT match grew from 49% to 57%, with the most notable increases among women aged 18-24.

Commenting on their research results, Sky Ireland’s Chief Commercial Officer, Orlaith Ryan, said:

“From the moment we came on board as Women’s National Team Primary Partner, our aim has always been to help the squad highlight their achievements, inspire the next generation of players, and help to grow women’s football in Ireland. It is so encouraging to see growth in support for this team, as well as growth in the number of people who would encourage their children to play football. These statistics are a testament to the players and management, who have enjoyed incredible success over the past 12-months.

“It has also been hugely important to us that, through our partnership, we give our WNT players opportunities to grow and develop. That is why I am thrilled to launch the Sky WNT Fund again this year. While 2023 is a huge year for players on the pitch, the fund is about assisting our WNT players off the pitch, with their academic studies and careers outside of and after football.”

Also speaking at today’s Sky event, Women’s National Team Manager, Vera Pauw, said:

[i"Sky continues to be a fantastic partner for the Republic of Ireland Women’s Team. The support they have shown us and for women’s football in Ireland has been phenomenal. The Sky WNT Fund introduced last year is so important for our players as it helps players to plan and prepare for the future.”[/i]

Speaking about the year ahead and the WNT’s first ever World Cup, Vera Pauw added: “I am immensely proud of this team and the work they put in to secure World Cup qualification. We know we have a difficult group, but we also trust our preparation. We are looking forward to competing against the best teams in the world and we hope to do the country proud with our performances.”

2022 Sky WNT Fund recipient and Women’s National Team player, Saoirse Noonan, said:

“I was delighted to be chosen as one of five players to receive the Sky WNT Fund last year. It allowed me to focus on my own clothing brand ‘Freedom Official Clothing’ and grow the business. As the company is based in Cork, it can be difficult to manage when I am in the UK. The fund – and some help from my family – allowed me to keep the business going, without impacting my playing career.”

The Sky WNT Fund is a €25,000 bursary that will be awarded to five WNT recipients in 2023. Any WNT player can apply for funding – entries for which will be done by completing a short form, to understand what path is being pursued and how the funding will assist on that path.

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