There are several different reasons why over the last few years, the interest in women’s football has increased substantially. It has become the fastest growing sport in the UK but for so many years has been in the shadow of the men’s game.
Why has the women’s game been out of sight for so many years? The women’s game was introduced in England in 1895, only 25 years after the men’s game. The sport grew rapidly during the first world war; for example, drawing a crowd of over 50,000 people in a match on Boxing Day 1920. The following year, a ban was put in place by the Football Association (FA) on women playing football on league grounds: “...the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged”. Astonishingly, the ban remained in place until 1971.
In 1969, the women’s FA was formed (106 years after the men’s FA was established). The first women’s World Cup took place in 1991 in China. Only 12 nations competed. A few years on from the introduction of the women’s World Cup, the women’s game was then added to the Olympic Games programme in 1996.
Since then, things have gone from strength to strength, and we are eagerly anticipating watching the England Lionesses in the final of the 2022 Euros against Germany on Sunday, July 31.
With England’s opening Euros game against Austria setting a record attendance for a women’s Euros game (68,871), it’s fair to say that despite its 50-year ban, the women’s game has been more than rekindled and the Euro 2022 tournament is set to inspire a new generation of both players and fans.
Changing attitudes towards women’s football
As with the female equivalent of many other sports such as tennis, rugby and cricket, the women’s game has suffered from being regarded as ‘lower ranked’ in several different components of football.
· Ticket prices
· Recognition of achievement
Nevertheless, the female game continues to rise along with increasing investment in women's sports generally and more professional athletic contracts for women. Clubs and organisations are finding that if people know about women's sports, they will attend games and watch it on television. And let’s face it, the beautiful game is all the better for less diving ...
Why women’s football is ‘on the up’
In 2022, women’s football is the fastest growing sport in the UK. The women’s game is now included in World Cups, Champions Leagues, the FA Cup, and European competitions, as well as competitive leagues across the world. It is played in schools, clubs, and academies which offer girls of several different age groups the opportunity to play football.
Post pandemic, having been starved of live competitive sport, the public have taken a greater interest in women’s sport, especially football. This is hugely positive as the extra interest in the sport, in turn, has fuelled so much more media coverage.
In addition, due to the women’s game being out of the spotlight for many years, the broadcasting and television rights are now much cheaper. Women’s football is becoming less niche and more visible to the public. In fact, BBC and SKY SPORTS have confirmed 3-year deals with the women’s super league. This spreads awareness winning the attention of different influencers and pundits to attract and expand the fanbase for the women’s game. This is a great strategy as the current European championship is being played in England/Wales.
What is being done now to promote women’s football on/off the pitch?
On websites and social media platforms across the UK, there are campaigns to attract the younger generation of female players and inspire them to play. Here are some examples:
In addition, there are some fantastic role models in the sport, such as player turned presenter Alex Scott, England captain Leah Williamson and England manager Sarina Wiegman who has had a huge impact on the current England team.
Without a doubt, women’s football is thriving and growing. It’s an exciting time for the sport, and the success of the England Lionesses in reaching the finals of the Euros shows how far the game has come. I, for one, will be glued to the Euros final on Sunday, in great “Sweet Caroline voice”, cheering on England! It’s coming home!