|Date: Sunday, 18 October Kick-off: 12:30 BST Coverage: Watch live on the BBC Red Button, BBC iPlayer and online|
Manchester United’s Christen Press says the recent growth in women’s-team related merchandise makes her proud of how far the women’s game has come.
United broke women’s club-sales records after signing Press and her fellow United States forward Tobin Heath.
Their online store sold six times more women’s team-related products than their previous monthly record.
Press and Heath were the most popular names – male or female – printed on United shirts on the day they signed.
“That’s great to hear,” Press told BBC Sport. “Part of our job – which isn’t necessarily what we want it to be – is fighting for the respect for women’s sports.
“So to hear that jersey sales go up and that there are great fans in the women’s game makes me very proud of how far the game has come in the United States and hopefully here in England.”
It is a trend replicated across the women’s game, according to leading licensed retailer Fanatics.
The company claims that their global sales of women’s sport merchandise have increased by 600% so far this year compared to three years ago.
And it says big-name signings have created a new revenue stream for sides, with Press and Heath among five World Cup-winning United States internationals to join English Women’s Super League teams this summer.
“I think it says a lot about the women’s game, this football club and those players in terms of what they’ve achieved in the game and the fan base they’ve got across the US,” United head coach Casey Stoney, whose side face West Ham on Sunday (12:30 BST) bidding to maintain their unbeaten start to the league campaign, said.
“It’s massively positive because, not only does it mean that people are putting female players names on the back of their shirts, it means that there’s revenue coming back in and that just helps us as a club.”
Heath and Press have been joined in the WSL by international team-mates Alex Morgan, who has joined Tottenham, and Manchester City pair Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle.
In September, Lavelle was in the top 10 bestselling male or female players’ shirt names on Manchester City’s official online store.
“Women’s merchandise is one of the fastest growing areas of our business and we believe it presents a big opportunity for clubs across Europe,” Fanatics’ co-president Jack Boyle told BBC Sport.
“The impressive merchandise sales that we have seen this summer from clubs in the WSL reinforce a trend we have been seeing across all sport throughout the last three years, with sales in the first eight months of this year across women’s merchandise up 600% compared to 2017.
“Women have traditionally been underserved as sports fans by the industry, with many clubs only offering limited choice, historically often only in men’s sizes and styles.
“Working with our partners we have expanded the range and availability for women sports fans and our clubs are now beginning to really see the rewards in doing so.”
Fanatics operate more than 300 online and offline stores, on behalf of major professional sports leagues including the NFL, MLB and NBA, as well as club stores for teams including Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.
While growth in women’s football merchandise sales in 2020 has so far been strong for clubs, on the international stage records have also been set in recent years.
In 2019 the World Cup-winning US women’s national team’s kit became the top-selling US soccer kit of all time, for men or women.
And during that tournament in France, the England Women’s shirt was the best-selling top on the official online FA Store that June, Fanatics found, and it is understood that the global licensed sports merchandise market for women’s sport is worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
In contrast, fans of Australia’s women’s national team were left disappointed in September after it emerged that their replica away kit was not available in female sizes through Nike.
Their new away strip was originally unavailable in female sizes until 2022, but that was brought forward to 2021 after the fan backlash.