An examination of social media use and the FA Women’s Super League: The challenges of going professional


This paper explores the use of social media, specifically Twitter, in two English football clubs during their first season under the professional structure of the WSL. The study uses data from the clubs’ Twitter accounts and interviews with key employees. A total of 1088 tweets were analysed. Four themes emerged: player availability; status; cooperation and social media strategy. The findings showed that while women’s football has made great strides, the increase use of social media by players has been not supported by proper media training. Furthermore, the increase in status has not been matched by better funding. It is important than the increase awareness surrounding women’s football is matched by an increase in player well-being as this will impact the standing of women’s football.


Achen, R., Lebel, K., Clavio, G. (2017). What Customers Want: Defining Engagement

on Social Media in Sport. Global Sport Business Journal, 5(5), 1-21.

Barrick, S., Mair, H. Potwarka, L. (2016). Leveraging participation in Olympic sports: a call for experiential qualitative case study research. Sport In Society, 20(12), 1861-1869.

Baxter, K. (2019). Staggering Growth Of Women's Soccer Bodes Well For World Cup In France’. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 March 2020, from

BBC Sport. (2012). Women's Super League Launches Twitter Kit Initiative To Raise Profile’. Retrieved 11 July 2019, from

Belch, G., Belch, M. (2017). Advertising And Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective (11th ed., pp. 498-530). McGraw-Hill Education.

Bryman, A. (2012). Social Research Methods (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Clavio, G., Kian, T. (2010). Uses and Gratifications of a Retired Female Athlete’s Twitter Followers. International Journal of Sport Communication, 3(4), 485-500.

Coche, R. (2013). What women’s soccer fans want: a Twitter study. Soccer & Society, 15(4), 449-471.

Creswell, J. (2007). Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches (2nd ed.) Sage.

Culvin, A. (2019). Football as Work: The New Realities of Professional Women Footballers in England (Ph.D.). University of Central Lancashire.

Dunn, C. (2016). Elite footballers as role models: promoting young women’s football participation. Soccer & Society, 17(6), 843-855.

Dunn, C., Welford, J. (2015). Football and the FA Women's Super League: Structure, Governance and Impact. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Edwards, L. (2018). Women's football can be the first female team sport to break through into the mainstream. The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 July 2019, from team-sport-break-mainstream/.

FA to Restructure Women’s Football Pyramid at Elite Level, ‘2017. The FA. (2017). Retrieved 12 July 2019, from womens-football-pyramid-wsl-wpl-270917.

Fielding-Lloyd, B., Woodhouse, D., & Sequerra, R. (2018). More than just a game’: family and spectacle in marketing the England Women’s Super League. Soccer & Society, 21(2), 166-179

FIFPro World Player Union. (2020a). Rising Our Game Women's Football Report. Hoofddorp, Netherlands. Retrieved from

FIFPro World Player Union. (2020b). Covid-19: Implications for Professional Women’s Football. Hoofddorp, Netherlands. Retrieved from implications-for-women-s-football

Filo, K., Lock, D., Karg, A. (2015). Sport and social media research: A review. Sport Management Review, 18(2), 166-181.

Football Association. (2009). Be Part of Football’s Future: The FA Women’s Super League Launching in 2011. London: The Football Association.

Football Association. (2012). Game Changer: The FA Plan for Women’s Football in England: 2013–18. London, England.

Football Association. (2017). FA to Restructure Women’s Football Pyramid at Elite Level. The FA. Retrieved 12 May 2020, from wsl-wpl-270917.

Football Association. (n,d). Where To Watch The WSL. Retrieved 11 July 2019, from 190917.

Football Association. (2018). FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship Competition Rules 2018-19 Season’. London: The Football Association.

Garry, T., Aloia, A. (2016). WSL Crowds: Manchester City Average More Than 2,000 But Three Top Clubs See Decreases’. BBC Sport. Retrieved 8 July 2019, from

Garry, T. (2018). Women's Super League: New Full-Time, Professional Era - All You Need To Know’. BBC Sport. Retrieved 12 May 2019, from

Garry, T. (2019). Women's Super League: Barclays Agree Multi-Million Sponsorship

Deal. BBC Sport. Retrieved 10 July 2019, from

Garry, T. (2020). Transfer window: When will women's football see big-money deals?. BBC Sport. BBC Sport. Retrieved 12 May 2019, from

Geurin-Eagleman, A., & Burch, L. (2016). Communicating via photographs: A gendered analysis of Olympic athletes’ visual self-presentation on Instagram. Sport Management Review, 19(2), 133-145.

Gibbs, C., O’Reilly, N., & Brunette, M. (2014). Professional Team Sport and Twitter:Gratifications Sought and Obtained by Followers. International Journal Of Sport Communication, 7(2), 188-213.

Guest, A., Luijten, A. (2017). Fan culture and motivation in the context of successful women’s professional team sports: a mixed-methods case study of Portland Thorns fandom. Sport In Society, 21(7), 1013-1030.

Hambrick, M., Simmons, J., Greenhalgh, G., & Greenwell, T. (2010). UnderstandingProfessional Athletes’ Use of Twitter: A Content Analysis of Athlete Tweets. International Journal Of Sport Communication, 3(4), 454-471.

Hutchins, B., Rowe, D. (2012). Sport Beyond Television The Internet, Digital Media and the Rise of Networked Media Sport. Routledge.

Jones, I, (2015). Research Methods for Sports Studies. 3rd ed. Routledge. Kassing, J., Sanderson, J. (2010). Fan–Athlete Interaction and Twitter Tweeting Through the Giro: A Case Study. International Journal Of Sport Communication, 3(1), 113-128.

Kennedy, P. Kennedy D. (2016). Football in neo-liberal times. A Marxist perspective on the European football industry. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.

Litchfield, C., Kavanagh, E. (2018). Twitter, Team GB and the Australian Olympic Team: representations of gender in social media spaces. Sport In Society, 22(7), 1148-1164.

Magowan, A. (2019). What has the World Cup done for women's football and how can

it capitalise?. BBC Sport. Retrieved 12 July 2019, from

McCarthy, J., Rowley, J., Jane Ashworth, C., Pioch, E. (2014). Managing brand presence through social media: the case of UK football clubs. Internet Research, 24(2), 181-204.

McGillivray, D., & McIntosh, A. (2006). ‘Football is my life’: Theorizing social practice in the Scottish professional football field. Sport in Society, 9(3), 371-387. doi:10.1080/17430430600673381

Nielsen Sports. (2019). Women's Football 2019. The Nielsen Company. Retrieved from

Newman, T., Peck, J., Harris, C., & Wilhide, B. (2013). Social Media in Sport Marketing (pp. 65-66). Holcomb Hathaway.

Parganas, P., & Anagnostopoulos, C. (2015). Social Media Strategy in Professional Football: The case of Liverpool FC. Choregia, 11(2), 61-75. Page 20 of 24

Parker, A. (2000). Training for' glory', schooling for' failure'?: English professional football, traineeship and educational provision. Journal of Education and Work, 13(1), 61-76. doi:10.1080/136390800112231

Parry, K., Kavanagh, E., Jones, I. (2015). Adoration and abuse: how virtual maltreatment harms athletes. The Conversation. Retrieved 12 May 2020, from

Pegoraro, A. (2013). Sport Fandom In The Digital World’. In P. Pedersen, Routledge Handbook Of Sport Communication (pp. 248-258). Routledge.

Price, J., Farrington, N., & Hall, L. (2013). Changing the game? The impact of Twitter on relationships between football clubs, supporters and the sports media. Soccer & Society, 14(4), 446-461.

Reynolds, A. (2015). Manchester United kit launch makes £1.5m through social media drive. PR Week. Retrieved 10 May 2019, from 15m-social-media-drive.

Roderick, M. (2006). Adding insult to injury: Workplace injury in English professional

football. Sociology of Health & Illness, 28(1), 76-97. doi:10.1111/j.1467- 9566.2006.00483

Rossi, F., Rubera, G. (2018). Measuring Competition for Attention in Social Media: NWSL Players on Twitter. SSRN Electronic Journal.

Shaban, H. (2019). Twitter reveals its daily active user numbers for the first time. The

Washington Post. Retrieved 8 July 2019, from


Suresh, R. (2015). ”Tweeting For Tickets:” The Role Of Social Media Marketing In Sports Franchises’. Stanford University.

Vann, P. (2014). Changing the Game: The Role of Social Media in Overcoming Old Media's Attention Deficit Toward Women's Sport. Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 58(3), 438-455.

Waterson, J. (2019). The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2019, from

Welford. (2018). Outsiders on the Inside: Integrating Women’s and Men’s Football Clubs in England. In Female Football Players and Fans: Intruding into a Man's World. (pp. 103-124). Palgrave Macmillan.

Wood, S., Harrison, L. K., & Kucharska, J. (2017). Male professional footballers’ experiences of mental health difficulties and help-seeking. The Physician and Sports medicine, 45(2), 120-128. doi:10.1080/00913847.2017.1283209.

Yin, R. (2009). Case study research (4th ed.). Sage.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2021 Luciana Lolich