(Reuters) - England's Rugby Football Union (RFU) has announced a long-term study aimed at driving record match attendances for the women's rugby team by raising the visibility of the Red Roses.
The study, in collaboration with principal sponsor O2, will use data provided by the Women's Sports Trust (WST) to help reduce the gender awareness gap and aims to fill the 82,000-seater Twickenham Stadium for a Red Roses game by 2025.
The current 42,579 attendance record for women's rugby, set at the 2021 Rugby World Cup final at Eden Park, could fall as early as next month, with 40,000 tickets already sold for England's opening match of the Women's Six Nations against France on April 29, the RFU said.
"There has been significant growth in the women and girls' game, as well as awareness of the Red Roses team, over recent years," RFU Women's Game Director Alex Teasdale said.
"However... we have set ourselves ambitious targets to grow the women's game even further and the insights we gather from this research will provide valuable understanding to aid us in driving the awareness forward."
Live TV viewership of the men's Six Nations is currently 10.8 times that of the women's tournament, but WST's data has revealed opportunities for rugby to reach new audiences by boosting the profile of the women's game.
The data showed that an audience of about one million fans watched at least three minutes of last year's women's Six Nations live, but did not watch any of the men's Six Nations live.
Nine percent of that unique audience were Black, Asian, or minority ethnic, while 21% of those who watched only the women's Six Nations were under the age of 35, in comparison to 9% who watched both men and women's tournaments.
The data also highlighted areas where there is work to be done, showing that while 43% of the audience who only watched the women's Six Nations were women, 52% of whose who only watched the men's Six Nations were also women.
"Our research into the visibility of women's sport over the last few years has been key to proving its commercial value," WST CEO Tammy Parlour said.
"We have seen an upwards trend across a number of areas such as the time spent watching women's sport as well as the amount of women's sport available to view.
"However, we know there is still work to be done, especially if we look at the difference to the men's game."
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)