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Female fan-power on rise in Germany and Italy as Euro 2012 approaches

updated 3:19 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
The popularity of soccer with German females is on the rise as the European Championships approaches
The popularity of soccer with German females is on the rise as the European Championships approaches
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New study of soccer fans shows female supporters on rise in Italy and Germany
  • Germany will have the biggest backing of big five European nations with 62% of population
  • Of that 62% female fans make up nearly half, with Italy attracting similar numbers
  • England can rely on 15.6 million fans but figure only translates to 44% of population

(CNN) -- A huge chunk of Europe's male population is salivating at the imminent arrival of Euro 2012 -- a month long festival of football between the continent's best soccer sides.

But the tournament, arguably second only to the World Cup in scale and prestige, is proving equally popular with the fairer sex, according to new research.

For Germany and Italy, two perennial heavyweights in the four-yearly competition, women make up nearly half of the huge support they attract.

This is a far greater figure than England, whose domestic Premier League is one of the world's most popular competitions, where the national team's supporter profile contains around 33% females.

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Danny Townsend, from firm Repucom who conducted the survey, says the Premier League has attracted more female fans to the game in recent years, but has a way to go to match its continental rivals.

"In Germany in particular, the national association has been ahead of the game for some time in this sense," he told CNN.

"Cultural differences also come into play to a degree, but you only have to look at the profile of women's football in Germany compared to the UK for an example of the work that has been done.

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"Ultimately, it's a major goal for all clubs and organizations to engage more female fans. In most European markets, male interest in football is so incredibly high it is close to reaching a ceiling.

"However the potential for growing female interest is huge -- and, at the end of the day, it equates to more people playing the game and more people investing in the game."

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Germany's burgeoning female football fan population contributes to their position at the top of Repucom's table, with 62% of its country's people supporting the national team and 44% of that figure made up of women.

Italy are second on the list in terms of well supported nations with 61% of their population willing the Azzuri onto victory -- and just like Germany, 44% of that figure consists of females.

Spain, the current European and world champions, can begin their defense in Poland and Ukraine safe in the knowledge that half of their countrymen and women will be dedicated to the cause.

But while England can rely on the backing of 15.6 million supporters when Euro 2012 kicks off, that figure only translates to 44% of the adult population.

Perhaps for a team that has only won one major title -- the 1966 World Cup -- that is not surprising.

Yet France, who took both the 1998 World Cup and the European Championships in 2000, are bottom of the fan mini-league, with only 38% of their nation counting themselves as fans of the national team.

According to Townsend, England's poor performances on the pitch in recent years have translated to a drop in fervent fans off it.

"I think if we were to look back over the past 20 years or so, you would expect to find that England's domestic supporter base would rival that of Germany or Italy in terms of the percentage of the population who back the team," he said.

"But what is undeniable is that the past couple of years have been very difficult for England on and off the pitch. Naturally, that impacts on the brand even although in aspects such as replica shirt sales, England is still way ahead of its competitors.

"Bringing back the feel-good factor and the pride in the national team has to be considered a major element of manager Roy Hodgson's remit in Poland and Ukraine over the coming weeks."

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