If you enjoyed the World Cup, you should get behind our Lionesses too

17th July 2018

England’s World Cup fever has come to an end. While chants of “it’s coming home” have now died down, the nation has been left with a warm patriotic glow.

So what’s next? We’ve got the Euros in 2020, of course, with the newly vindicated England team looking at odds of 8/1 to win the tournament. But what can we do until then?

Well, if you like the feeling of England being good at football, you might want to consider the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Women’s sports are at the height of their popularity, with female sports stars such as Ronda Rousey, Serena Williams and Jessica Ennis breaking barriers for what it means to be a successful woman in sport. Earlier this month Rousey was the first woman ever to be inducted in the UFC Hall Of Fame and Williams once again dominated Wimbledon, only to be beaten in the final by Angelique Kerber. There are many strides being made in women sports, however, those strides don’t seem to be translating to football.

Despite the team consistently performing better in the tournament than the men, women’s football is not getting the opportunity to shine

Women’s football is on the way up but compared to other women’s sports the growth is not fast enough, especially in the UK. A big sign of this is that the women’s England team came in third in 2015, beating Germany 1-0 (if you like Harry Maguire, you’ll love Steph Houghton, by the way), but little was made of it by the media. On the other hand, no matter where the men’s team place it will make the front pages. Even when the women’s team was more successful than the men’s team, they’re nowhere the near coverage that the men’s team gets.

On top of this, most of the 2015 Women’s World Cup was aired on BBC Three, in contrast to the 2018 World Cup which was aired on BBC One and ITV1. Despite the team consistently performing better in the tournament than the men, women’s football is not getting the opportunity to shine — if the TV stations don’t prioritise women’s football how can viewers?

Even though the Women’s World Cup was not given the same television exposure as the men’s World Cup, it was still a ratings hit. More than 750 million people worldwide watched the Women’s World Cup, according to FIFA — more than six times the viewing figures of the men’s Six Nations Rugby tournament, for example, which is often given pride of place in TV schedules.

Women’s football still has a long way to go before it can reach the 3.2 billion viewers of the 2014 men’s World Cup but the viewing figures show it has a huge fanbase.

This fanbase is growing too. The 2015 tournament took place in Canada and it was the most attended Women’s World Cup in history with a total of 1.3 million people there over the course of 52 matches.

The huge gap between men and women in football is also reflected in pay. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is the highest paid footballer making $84m, according to Forbes. The highest paid woman in football is US star Alex Morgan earning $450,000. This is clearly not just a problem in football but in sport as a whole, not a single woman made this year’s Forbes top 100 Highest Paid Athletes list.

Women's world cup
England’s women’s squad are third in the world 📸 IQRemix

One of the accusations often levelled at women’s football is that it’s boring. Yes, of course some matches can be boring but anyone who watches football regularly will know that this is the case for men’s football too. You never know what type of match you’re going to see and that’s the beauty of football, it is unpredictable. There are some games that are duds but then again you can get nail-biting action like the 2011 Women’s World Cup final between Japan and the United States which saw Japan take home the trophy after a gruelling 120 minutes of football and a penalty shoot-out.

Another criticism is that the players are “not as talented”. While there is truth to this as there is less competition for spots on women’s teams, it’s not a fair argument to make because women and girls have not and do not have the same opportunities to play football as men and boys do. However, that’s slowly changing with more football academies for girls and more amateur teams to play on.

Overall women’s football is fighting an uphill battle to get the respect it deserves from the public and the mainstream media. With time they are likely to be treated more seriously — perhaps not in time for 2019 World Cup but, as more people discover it every year, the future is looking extremely bright for the women’s game.

17th July 2018