The success of the Lionesses in the Euros this summer has been unbelievable. From annihilating the Norwegian team, to Georgia Stanway’s immaculate winning goal against the Spanish, to the iconic footage of Jill Scott swearing, this tournament has been revolutionary in raising the profile of women’s football in the UK. Orla Newstead reflects on England’s tournament and what it means for women all over the country.
Following Euro 2022, names like Williamson, Kelly, and Russo are no longer unfamiliar to us. Therefore, it seems shameful that the previous success of these talented women has largely gone unnoticed until this year. They have performed fantastically over the last decade and this win has been the next step in their journey. In the 2017 Euros, they lost to the Netherlands in the semi-finals. In the 2015 World Cup they placed third, and in 2019 reached fourth. These are incredible results, and yet our communities remained unfamiliar with these women. Why is this the case?
Some believed women should not participate in sport at all
In a study conducted by Durham University in January, 68% of the polled male football fans thought negatively of equal media coverage of the women’s game. Some believed women should not participate in sport at all, or, if they did, would be better suited to more “feminine” pursuits such as athletics, rather than football. This is a shocking and disheartening statistic and gender politics have silenced the success of these women.
Despite this study, several high-profile male footballers came forward to vocalise their support and congratulate the team. England men’s captain Harry Kane posted to social media about being in the crowd of the final and others such as Harry Maguire, Gary Lineker, and Gary Neville all congratulated the women’s team. It is important that powerful men like this acknowledge the women’s success in order to encourage other men (who may identify as part of that 68%) to see women’s football as equal to men’s.
17 million people tuned in on their televisions to watch the final and Wembley Stadium was rammed with fans
It has been wonderful to see so many people embracing women’s football. In fact, 17 million people tuned in on their televisions to watch the final and Wembley Stadium was rammed with fans, both old and new. The fact that Wembley was used as the venue is a historical moment because its capacity is for 87,000 spectators (and it was where the men’s final was held last year). To put this into perspective, the last women’s Euros final in 2017 was held in De Grolsch Veste in the Netherlands, which has a capacity of just over 30,000.
Another aspect of this women’s game that was fantastic to see was the aftermath. Only two arrests were made in connection to the final, in comparison to the 86 people who were arrested in London – including 53 at Wembley – for offences including assault, vandalism, and being drunk and disorderly at the men’s final last summer. The attendees this summer have set an excellent precedent for fan behaviour, as the wrongdoers at the men’s final last year essentially terrorised young families and other vulnerable people who were just trying to enjoy themselves.
The England team, all 23 players from this year, signed an open letter to the Conservative leadership candidates. In this letter, they state that ‘history was made. The dreams of 23 women came true. England became European champions for the first time in history.’
It is because of these women that I am hopeful for the future of football
These inspirational women are calling for a change in how girls can access football at school where they can flourish at the sport and hopefully follow in their footsteps. It is because of these women that I am hopeful for the future of football.
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