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The Women’s World Cup - Why is success so important?


The Women’s World Cup - Why is success so important?

The Women’s World Cup kicked off Thursday in Australia with England being one of the favourites going into the tournament. With the Euros already under their belt, Sarina Wiegmann’s side has already tasted what success can mean for women’s football, but another win at the World Cup could bring even more success.

But what are we defining success as? Winning the tournament is undoubtedly the main aim for any side taking the journey down under, but with women’s football in a period of growth in England, winning the World Cup would only propel the already increasing success. More eyes, more sponsors and longevity of support are the prizes England have their eyes on.

The Road to Australia

The Lionesses arrived in Australia as the reigning European Champions, and their run to that win was nothing short of impressive. England were drawn into Group A with Austria, Norway and Northern Ireland. The Lionesses finished top of the group with three wins in three games, scoring 14 goals and conceding zero, an impressive feat for any side at a World Cup.

In the Quarter-finals England drew a strong Spain side, who pushed The Lionesses all the way to extra time where a Georgia Stanway in the 96th minute was enough to seal their spot in the Semi-finals. A strong Sweden side awaited England in the Semis, a team who had just reached the Finals at the 2020 Olympics. However, despite how successful Sweden have been in the past, they were no match for The Lionesses.

Beth Mead, Lucy Bronze, Alessia Russo and Fran Kirby all scored in a 4 - 0 thrashing of Sweden that showed their intent to win the trophy on home soil. Late July of 2021, England took on Germany in the Final at Wembley. Ella Toone’s goal was cancelled out by Lina Magull before the final whistle and sent the Final to extra time. A now iconic goal from Chloe Kelly gave England the win and brought a new era to women’s football in England.

The Impact of the Euros

There have been many effects from England’s success in the Euros. In general, UEFA’s flash report of the tournament revealed that there was a total match attendance of 574,875, which included 110,555 international fans from 104 different countries.

2019 saw the total viewership for women’s football being 20.2 million, an already big increase to the previous year thanks to the Women’s World Cup and England’s appearance in the Semi-finals of that tournament. Following the Euros the WSL had 16 million unique viewers for the 2022 season, with a total 37.6 million viewers throughout 2022. This was a major increase from 2021 where the WSL had a total viewership of 32.9 million.

The average attendance of a game at the 2022 Women’s Euros was 18,544 and the Final had an attendance of 87,192 which broke the record for most attended Final for the women’s game. Most importantly for the growth of the women’s game, 85% of the spectators at the Euros stated that they are likely to attend professional international and domestic women’s football events in the future.

In terms of the progression for the professional game, UEFA reports a 289% increase in the values of the media rights since the previous Euros. There was a projected global live viewership of 365 million across 195 different countries.

At a more grassroots level, the Euros created over 416,000 new opportunities in schools, clubs and the communities in order to engage women and girls in grassroots football across England. This included both opportunities to play, coach and officiate.

The economic impact was also felt in England as the host cities made £81 million and spectators spent £44 million on match days and on trips across England. The Women’s Sport Trust reported in 2022 research that the average viewing time per person for women’s sport on TV in the UK has increased by 131% from 2021. One of the biggest factors in this increase is the WSL, which itself benefitted from the influx in interest due to The Lionesses success at the Euros.

What could happen following the World Cup?

Though winning a World Cup would cement The Lionesses as the force to reckon within women’s football, it would also do tremendous good for the progress that has already started with the Euros and has continued through the WSL season.

An increase in sponsorships and overall visibility is the best thing for the women’s game, as the bigger platform on the world stage means better funding and a higher level of respect for the game. This may also lead to improvements in areas such as injury research and kit reforms, like the recent ones that changed the traditional white shorts to a darker colour in order to keep players comfortable during their period.