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The relative wealth of the middle class is already shrinking, but automation and robotics will further accelerate the decline. Who in the future will be spending time and money experiencing sports, and how will their relationship with sports be different?

The per-capita income of the middle class as a whole is steadily declining, and the dual-income approach is becoming increasingly important. This makes the rise and inclusion of the female sports fan critical to franchises and leagues.

Women make up almost half the sports fan community but spend far fewer hours on fan activities — only watching sports one-third as much as men.

Women make up

  • 47.2 % of Major League Soccer fans
  • 46.5% of MLB fans
  • 43.2% of NFL fans
  • 40.8% of fans at NHL games
  • 37% of NBA fans

Purchasing power

  • Women purchase 46% of official NFL merchandise.
  • Women spend 80% of all sports apparel dollars and control 60% of all money spent on men’s clothing.

Smaller time window

  • Women make up about one-third (34%) of the adult audience for ESPN sporting event programs.

Recent years have seen increasing participation of women in the presentation of sports. Women NBA referees, broadcasters, and announcers — even coaches — are becoming accepted parts of the game. League and franchise campaigns for breast cancer research and against domestic violence have also appeared on the scene. The cultural role model for the avid female fan, however, is still a work in progress. A major issue keeping women (and therefore their families) from being more involved in sports is their lack of free time. Throughout the Industrial Revolution, technology saved effort, money, and time. It’s poised to do the same for the family. It is already doing this in small ways (when is the last time you drove to the library to look something up?). As technology gets smarter and more sophisticated, it will increasingly take on the tasks that make our lives feel so busy.

Predicting the Future

1-5 Years

Women’s Sports Apparel Expansion

Female fans become the free agents that sports leagues and teams vie for. Women no longer have to “speak sports” to join the club. Women’s sports apparel takes up more shelf space than men’s gear in every store. It’s not just Spurs shirts in pink; we start to see Spurs logos on yoga pants and women’s sneakers.

5-10 Years

Job Displacement

The huge numbers of women who grew up playing soccer and basketball easily transition to being avid sports fans as adults. More franchises establish women’s teams — not expecting them to generate revenue but in the name of equality for the good of their brand. Driverless vehicles create major job displacement. We see increasing numbers of American men living more like migrant workers, moving to remote regions to work in data centers or electric-car battery plants, wiring paychecks home to their families.

10-25 Years

Increased Displacement of Low-end Workforce

Drones, kiosks, and robots further displace the low end of the workforce.

Fifty percent of the workforce lack a full-time job; now joining the “gig economy,” they work for short-term stints on discrete tasks — whatever is still slightly too complicated for a robot to automate. They have less money but more time. Basic income programs provide enough resources for the most dedicated fans to save enough to attend sporting events.

Technology provides women significantly more free time. While women still make up a small minority of fantasy sports players, and don’t listen to endless hours of sports radio, they become a strong majority of live game attendees, attending games with girlfriends or family members socially.

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