It’s an unprecedented year for England women’s football, and our national enthusiasm should show thatby Ruby Lott-Lavigna / May 14, 2019 / Leave a comment
We are now less than a month from the Women’s World Cup, and the anticipation is palpable. Sweepstakes are raging through offices, and your colleagues can’t stop arguing over whether Norway or Brazil will be the surprise winner this year.
Except, that’s not quite what’s happening, is it? While last year’s men’s World Cup caused a collective excitement to sweep through the nation, the attention on the women’s equivalent is barely comparable. When I mention a summer filled with World Cup coverage, most people respond with a confused look—or politely tell me that I am mistaken and that we’ve got another three years left. It’s hardly inspiring.
If you don’t know, now you know: This year, France hosts the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will see 24 of the best teams in the world competing for one of the biggest accolades in women’s sport.
England, after coming a close third in the last competition after an unfortunate 90th-minute own goal against Japan in 2015, are ambitious. With Manchester City’s Steph Houghton as captain, and a comfortable win at the Women’s Super League earlier this year in the US in their back pocket, the team have a good shot at topping their group if not heading to a final. It’s an unprecedented year for England women’s football, and our national enthusiasm should show that.
Love it or hate it, there’s no reason why anyone should be absent from the Women’s World Cup hype this year. If you’re a huge men’s football fan—if you know your Kantés from your Contes, or have ever referred to Liverpool’s intense pressing game as “heavy metal football”—then you’re going to love this upcoming summer.
Many of the same traits you know and love are there: the balls go in the goals; the referees prance around the pitch. The only real difference—bar, obviously, the extensive history of women being banned from playing on club grounds for 50 years—is that England Women start this competition with a genuine shot at winning.
Luckily, the tide is changing. In March, the Telegraph announced its women’s sport initiative, which seeks to offer “unprecedented coverage” in the area, thanks to added investment from the publication. FIFA has noted a record interest in bidding to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, while Coca-Cola will be sponsoring a series fronted by Clare Balding on Channel 4, which will see her travel across the world to uncover more about the sport. It’s slow, but it’s something.
While big shifts at the top of the game are coming, it’s time for this to translate into our day-to-day culture. It’s simply not good enough that the women’s equivalent of the competition is considered lesser in comparison. Dress it up whatever way you like by saying it’s a different style of game or that you just find it less interesting than the men’s—it’s still sexism.
Unfortunately, it’s a chicken and egg situation with women’s football. Sponsors are reluctant to support the games and broadcasters are tentative to show them if they feel like the eyeballs on the day aren’t going to translate financially. Less coverage means less public interest—and so the cycle continues.
If anything’s going to push the game to its full potential, it’s the weight of Britain turning out for the Lionesses, cracking open a cold one at every game, and making sure those matches get their viewership. If you’re happy to watch the Checkatrade Trophy because there’s nothing better on TV or you’re open to some semi-professional, salt-of-the-earth men’s action on a Saturday afternoon, then there should be no problem watching the highest performing women’s teams across the world. Many of England’s games will be on in the evening and shown on terrestrial.
Alternately, if you hate football and don’t want to endure another year of pretending you know what “VAR” means, then why not enjoy the true satisfaction of knowing more than your colleagues on this subject they hold so dear? “Oh,” you can say over lunch to Mike from HR, “you thought Aluko was playing in this year’s competition, despite having not been selected for the national team since 2016? Oh.” Women’s football wins; you win; everybody wins.
So get it up on the office TVs. Let your employees leave work at five when there’s an early kick-off. Force your local pub to show and publicise it. It’s time to get excited.