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Policy, political and economic determinants of the evolution of competitive balance in the FIFA women’s football World Cups

Scelles, Nicolas (2021) Policy, political and economic determinants of the evolution of competitive balance in the FIFA women’s football World Cups. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics. ISSN 1940-6940 (In Press)

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Abstract

Competitive balance is a key concept in sports economics. It postulates the necessity of sporting equilibrium between playing strengths to generate outcome uncertainty and thus fan demand. When looking at national teams, policy and political factors can help explain competitive balance. This article is interested in the evolution of competitive balance in the FIFA women’s football World Cups over the 1991-2019 period. It aims to identify the policy, political and economic determinants of this evolution. The theoretical framework brings together the macro and sports policy factors leading to international sporting success, the historical policies and politics of gender equality and women’s football impacting participation, and the economics and politics of the evolution of competitive balance that is positively impacted by an increase in participation. The research adopts a mixed methods approach, with the data relying both on sources documenting the historical policies and politics of gender equality and women’s football, and the measurement and determinants of the competitive balance in the women’s football World Cups. The results show that competitive balance has increased over time, consistent with the idea that the growing participation internationally translates in a better quality of the different playing strengths that, ultimately, leads to a better competitive balance. This growing participation internationally is related to the different (sport) policies and politics across countries, and the decisions made by FIFA, in particular the number of teams taking part in the competition and the breakdown per confederation as incentives for national associations to develop their women’s football team.

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