5.8 Million Women Now Playing Fantasy Football
By: The Football Girl | Posted: July 31, 2012
If it seems like more and more women are playing fantasy football every year, you’re not just imagining things. Female participation has grown exponentially in recent years and now holds steady at 20% of the overall pie. That’s right, 20% of all fantasy players are women, according to research from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association and Ipsos. For the 2011/2012 NFL season, that equated to approximately 5.8 million women playing fantasy football.
Some people, ok, most people, may find such a massive female representation surprising.
“I think women are a silently growing group,” said ESPN injury expert and analyst, Stephania Bell. ”I think the male participants are more vocal so we tend to be more aware of them. But I see more women writing and talking and tweeting fantasy football; they can be just as competitive, if not moreso.
Bell, who joined ESPN in 2007 and is fantasy’s most visible woman, has been playing for what she says is “thirteen or fourteen years.” She sees the biggest barrier to entry for women to be the initiation, and, last season, co-authored a piece debunking all the myths about playing fantasy (i.e. time consuming, expensive, complicated.) to try and make women and beginners feel at ease.
Her tips are apparently working because the growing numbers suggest a dwindling intimidation factor.
Still, stereotypes exist about the women play fantasy. One of the biggies: women are a little, shall we say, softer when it comes to drafting.
“I think there are stereotypes that women play with emotion. Like they’re going to pick players they think are hot, or like the jerseys, or are on the teams their boyfriends like,” Bell said. “My experience is, bottom line, they want to win. I’m a 49ers fan, but I’m not going to intentionally select Niners players and be blinded by emotional ties to my team. People might be surprised other women play that way.”
Katie Aselton plays "Jenny," the brains behind her husband's fantasy team on FX's "The League." (Photo credit: FX)
Bell says a lot of women are very analytic and committed and therefore, have success, whether they join a newly organized all-women’s league or a coed league that’s been running for ten years.
“They will study and research, organize time around doing it properly,” she said.
The growth potential for women is enormous. As fantasy balloons and the NFL continues its aggressive marketing to women (a league priority), more and more of them will be brought in as fans and fantasy players.
Will women ever make up 50% of the fantasy population or overall fan base? Probably not.
Will there be six million of us playing fantasy at this time next year? I’d be shocked if not.