With long term support needed to continue growing women’s football in the UK, sponsors of Accrington Stanley Women, Sundown Solutions, have a wider purpose to their investment, with the international tech company looking to recruit more female developers, with only 5% of developers worldwide currently being female.
It was one of those moments which will never be forgotten. As Chloe Kelly wheeled away after scoring the most famous England goal since 1966, the significance not only came on the football field but all around the world.
Over 50 million people worldwide tuned in to see England Women defeat Germany 2-1 at Wembley as they secured the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 tournament on Sunday 31st July, with a record breaking 17.4 million watching here in the UK.
As we all know, the global appeal for women’s football is stronger than ever and that showed with over three times more people watching the 2022 final than the previous final in 2017. Add to that the 365 million live viewership figures across the full tournament, and even those who try to, cannot ignore the power and growing influence of women’s football.
“So why isn’t women’s football better represented on popular video game franchise FIFA 23? That’s the question we want to ask with women making up 51% of the UK population,” says Kelly-Ann Groves, Chair of Accrington Stanley Women and Chief Operating Officer at Sundown Solutions.
It will come as no surprise that England’s win in the summer has resulted in big sponsorship opportunities for the Lionesses and that is something which will continue to go from strength to strength. But when it comes to developing sponsorship in women’s football at all levels, there needs to be a long term plan with committed and passionate individuals and businesses.
Katie Anderton, ex-England Women’s International, commented: “Women’s football now is really popular, lots and lots of people take part, people are saying they should maybe earn as much as the men eventually. When I was playing that wasn’t really the case, I did it because I absolutely loved it. There wasn’t really enough money in it and I had to have a contingency plan as well as playing football.”
International tech company Sundown Solutions are a shining example of a business supporting women’s football for the long term. Based in Amazing Accrington, they proudly work across the globe, providing IT consultancy and management solutions which help increase productivity, efficiency and profitability. While they are exceptional at what they do, it is their umbrella strategy for women’s football which is generating glowing reviews.
Sundown proudly sponsor Accrington Stanley Women, a team currently plying their trade in the North West Women’s Regional League Division One North, and who are so far unbeaten in the League this season.
Sundown’s involvement in football also overlaps into the men’s game, with Sundown proudly back of shirt sponsors at League One Club Accrington Stanley for the first time this season.
That deal has seen them featured on the latest version of the FIFA video game franchise, FIFA 23. Listed in the Guinness World Records as the best-selling sports video game in the world, the FIFA series has sold over 325 million copies as of 2021, available in 51 countries around the globe.
Developments to the game in 2023 has seen women’s football grow in visibility, with the Women’s Super League and French Women’s League included, adding to the already existing 18 international teams.
More recently EA Sports have announced some exciting new initiatives including the introduction of the UEFA Women’s Champions League knockout stages in FIFA 23 from early 2023, the funding of a women’s football internship programme, the Starting XI fund which has been designed to move the women’s game forward and includes an initial $11million investment from EA Sports, as well as agreeing a multi-year partnership with DAZN to become the Global Broadcast Partner of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Players of the game are also able to play the WSL season, something that has previously been unavailable. While these updates are an improvement, do they go far enough to represent a growing global sport? The answer disappointingly is no.
Kelly-Ann Groves said: “Some of the initiatives recently announced by EA Sports to develop the women’s game are a huge step in the right direction and they are extremely positive for our game.
“When it comes to FIFA 23 however, women’s football is still playing second fiddle to the men’s game. The recent Euro 2022 tournament alone showcased how much interest there is in the women’s game but we still see it being overshadowed on games like this. That game has an enormous audience worldwide and the opportunity for a women’s only version is a must if we are to continue building our brand.”
Unlike many sponsors who are happy to fund a club to gain recognition by seeing their brand on a shirt or stand and that’s where the relationship ends, Sundown Solutions are determined to go above and beyond to play their part in developing women’s football.
The tech company are heavily involved in the Club from grassroots level, right up to senior level. With over 160 girls and women currently on the roster at the Club, there is an exciting opportunity to build something special in Hyndburn.
Kelly-Ann Groves, and Sundown CEO Heath Groves, are the driving force behind the relationship, working with fantastic coaches and teams at all levels.
Kelly-Ann Groves said: “Football has been the top participation sport for women and girls in England since 2002, with women’s football now boasting almost three million registered players, with leagues run throughout all regions.
“Here at Accrington Stanley Women FC, it’s not just about football or competition. It gives the girls so much confidence, they gain new friends, and they’re so accepting and really help each other. They train at their own level, there’s no pressure. Through to the older players, they really bond, help and support each other and build so much resilience.
“We have a really positive female forward environment here, with a healthy mindset. Building confidence and resilience is key. I’m delighted to be appointed Chair. In 2022 we’ll grow our junior teams throughout all ages, the club is going to get bigger and even better. We have some really skilled players here, and I believe potentially some England Lionesses of the future!”
Heath Groves commented: “As a company we are determined to give back to the communities which we work in. Women’s football is growing at rapid rates and we are doing everything we can as a business to support that not only in the short term but for the future too.
“The past few months have been both incredible and a learning experience, but as we continue to learn, we will grow and that is what really excites Sundown Solutions. We have a strategy in place and we are looking forward to seeing it through.”
A study by sports marketing agency, The Space Between, found that 40% of women’s sports fan consider it to be of great importance that sponsor brands reflect their own values, something which very much aligns with the work being carried out by Sundown Solutions. The study also found that the brand recall amongst women’s sports fans is twice as likely as it is among those who follow men’s sport.
Women’s sport is developing and growing at an astonishing rate and if the sport continues to attract brands like Sundown Solutions, who have a clear goal and strategy to join the journey rather than hop on and off, then that growth will be so big that the giants of this sport will not be able to ignore it for much longer.
Sundown Solutions have been based in Hyndburn since 2003 and provide IT consultancy and management solutions around the world. You can learn more about them and what they do here: https://www.sundownsolutions.com/