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Women's football reaching new heights

The success enjoyed by the Lionesses in this year's Euros has marked a real breakthrough In English women's football. According to UEFA, the tournament is set to be the biggest European women's sporting event, delivering £54 million in economic activity to the nine host cities.[1]

Although women's football history stretches back to the 1890s, it has come a long way since the Women's Football Association (WFA) National Cup competition was moved under the control of The Football Assocation (The FA) to become the Women's FA Challenge Cup in 1993. But, it has not always been smooth ride for women footballers. Between 1921 and 1971, The FA prohibited women from using the grounds of professional men's teams. The sport was described as "quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged".

Thankfully, views moved on somewhat through generations. By 2002 football had become the top participation sport for women and girls in England. The profile of the women's game was further boosted when England hosted major tournaments in 2005 and 2012, with England reaching one European Final and two World Cup quarter-finals, followed by the launch of The FA Women's Super League.[2]

Media support for women's football

TV camera on pitch

In 2021 the BBC and Sky Sports announced an investment of £24 million over three years. Since then, there has been a fourfold increase in viewing figures.[3]  Through the 2021-2022 season, 44 women's games were broadcast live on Sky channels and 18 on BBC One and BBC Two. Female punditry and presenting are also becoming more mainstream thanks to the likes of former England and Arsenal women's player Alex Scott.

Inspiring the next generation of female players

Girl playing football

In 2017 The FA revealed plans to improve girls' and women's football with their Gameplan for Growth, a formal strategy for developing women's and girls' football in England. The targets to double participation and attendance at matches were not only met but exceeded within three years.[4]

Fast forward to 2021, supporting its ambition to give girls equal access to play football in schools by 2024, The FA's Let Girls Play campaign aims to "inspire and empower communities and schools to want to help make change, unlocking equal opportunities for girls to participate in the sport".[5]

At the time of writing, the Lionesses are preparing to compete in the EUFA Women's Championship Semi-Final as the favourites to win the competition. Whatever the result, it's been a fantastic contest that's also made significant progress for women's football; the goalposts are continuing to move in the right direction.

[1] https://www.uefa.com/returntoplay/news/0275-153634ff0980-2e8cecdd7c20-1000--uefa-and-the-fa-unveil-uefa-women-s-euro-2022-impact-report/
[2] https://www.thefa.com/womens-girls-football/history
[3] https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/mar/22/a-huge-step-forward-wsl-announces-record-breaking-deal-with-bbc-and-sky
[4] https://www.thefa.com/news/2020/jun/25/gameplan-for-growth-season-four-report-250620#:~:text=The%20Gameplan%20for%20Growth%20we,and%20girls'%20football%20in%20England.
[5] https://www.thefa.com/news/2021/oct/11/letgirlsplay-20211011 
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