With England proving triumphant against their greatest rivals Germany in the UEFA Euro 2022 final and marking the end of 56 years of hurt, women’s football seems to have transformed the nation for the better. Records broken, history made there is surely only more to come from our roaring Lionesses and more significantly, women’s football.
Beginning with the 8-0 demolition of Norway, the highest ever scoreline in any European Championships, it was only the beginning of a ground-breaking journey. This was ultimately followed by an unparalleled attendance at a Euros final, men or women’s, of over 87 000 and of course the reward of the Lionesses first ever major trophy at a tournament.
So what does this mean for women’s football now?
With many believing this landmark win will change the face of women’s football in England forever, like it did in America in 1999 following the home nation’s World Cup win, hope and optimism is growing that the Lionesses’ historic victory will act as a catalyst for the women’s game to ‘explode’ in England and inspire generations to come.
WRIGHT TIME TO EXPLODE
Ian Wright, the former Arsenal and England striker who worked as a BBC Sport pundit throughout the Euros, stated: “We need to put more money into women’s football in order to have more quality teams and start to really explode the game.”
It has since been announced that a review of domestic women’s football will be released later this summer to examine how the sport can be developed at elite and grassroots levels.
The Government are determined to build future opportunities and increase participation for women and girls in football shown by their £230 million investment to improve and build grassroots and multi-sport facilities. This supports the FA’s aim to create half a million additional opportunities for women and girls to play football in England.
England’s winning captain Leah Williamson expressed: “We’ve got people to come to (England) games, and we want them to come to WSL (Women’s Super League) games, but the legacy of this team is winners and this is the start of a journey.”
On the back of the Euros, with opening fixtures of the WSL released earlier this month, it is expected to become a record-breaking season for attendances.
MOVING IN ON THE MEN
Increasing numbers of fixtures are due to be staged in the men’s stadiums with Tottenham’s September fixtures to be held at the Tottenham Hotspur, King Power and Emirates Stadium respectively. These will all be high profile matches against Manchester United, Leicester City and Arsenal.
Moreover, Arsenal have announced at least three WSL fixtures will take place at the Emirates whilst all of their Champions League group stage home ties are booked in at the men’s stadium too.
The opening weekend of the WSL campaign begins with Chelsea to play West Ham at Stamford Bridge which is sure to attract a huge crowd in an enthralling derby contest. The match could feature at least three of Sarina Wiegman’s Wembley winners.
So why is holding WSL games in men’s stadium of such importance for women’s football?
For years we have been told women’s games cannot be played in men’s grounds for a variety of reasons: the pitches cannot take the increased use; it is financially viable; players do not like playing in empty stadiums and so forth.
Now these excuses no longer seem valid as Reading and Leicester City have committed to playing all or most of their home games in their men’s grounds.
Feeling inspired by the Lionesses? Here’s how to follow the new WSL season.
Every match will be broadcast live each weekend on a combination of Sky Sports, the BBC and The FA Player, a free platform hosted by the Football Association.
Kelly Somers, host of BBC 1’s The Women’s Football Show said: “Every WSL game has to be treated like a Sky Super Sunday.
“Our job now is to put on a really good show and keep that momentum going.”
AROUND THE WSL GROUNDS
And if you want to be more than an armchair fan, here is how to get out and see the best players in action up close.
HOME GROUND: MEADOW PARK, BOREHAMWOOD FC
SEPT 11 V MANCHESTER CITY (A) THE ACADEMY STADIUM 2PM
SEPT 18 V BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION (H) MEADOW PARK 7.30PM
SEPT 25 V TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (H) EMIRATES STADIUM 2PM
HOME GROUND: KINGSMEADOW STADIUM
SEPT 11 V WEST HAM UNITED (H) STAMFORD BRIDGE 12.30PM
SEPT 18 V LIVERPOOL (A) PRENTON PARK 2PM
SEPT 25 V MANCHESTER CITY (H) KINGSMEADOW 2PM
HOME GROUND: THE ACADEMY STADIUM
SEPT 11 V ARSENAL (H) ACADEMY STADIUM 7PM
SEPT 18 V ASTON VILLA (A) TREVOR BROWN MEMORIAL GROUND 2PM
SEPT 25 V CHELSEA (A) KINGSMEADOW 2PM
HOME GROUND: LEIGH SPORTS VILLAGE
SEPT 11 V TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (A) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR STADIUM 2PM
SEPT 18 V READING (H) LEIGH SPORTS VILLAGE 2PM
SEPT 25 V WEST HAM UNITED (A) CHIGWELL CONSTRUCTION STADIUM 2PM