Before looking at the 2022 women’s euros it is important to look back on how the women’s game has evolved and got to where it is today. There was no ‘official’ England women’s football team until the 1970s and by 1925 the one remaining high profile team in England were the Dick Kerr Ladies (picture seen here in their ‘England’ kit).
They were the unofficial lionesses of their day and have remained of huge importance for the growth of the women’s game ever since.The weight of the nation is behind England’s Lionesses this week as they look to end the bitterly long 56-year trophy drought. Not since 1966 has an England team won a major football trophy. Could the women finally be the ones to finally bring it home?
We all want to see Sarina Wiegman’s brilliant team holding the silverware aloft at Wembley on Sunday, but no matter the result, history has already been made. Attendance records and viewing figures have repeatedly been smashed, the players are household names – girls proudly wear shirts adorning their names and outdated attitudes are shifting. The Lionesses have left a legacy. They have shown girls that sport can take them as far as they dare to dream, both on and off the pitch.
Team sport teaches skills that are pivotal to success – leadership, team work, resilience, communication – but currently 23% fewer girls than boys participate. We asked some influential names from the world of football and beyond, for their opinion of the Women’s Euros and why we need to close the gender gap in team sport.
Clare Balding, Lisa Parfitt, Grace Vella, Nigel Huddleston, Amy Clement and Neduam Onouha explain its importance
Clare Balding, Sports broadcaster and Journalist
The Women’s Euros is more than just a football tournament, it’s a showcase for the strength, intelligence, and resilience of women. When England last hosted the Euros in 2005 most of the players had second jobs and had certainly grown up buying their own kit. Now, major global brands are supplementing player contracts with huge sponsorship deals and showcasing their images on billboards everywhere. It’s great for the growth of the game but importantly it also persuades young girls that they can play sport for a living. The remarkable performances of the Lionesses have made Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Lucy Bronze and their teammates household names. Off the pitch they showcase their love for what they do on social media, which can inspire millions of girls who may have fallen out of love with sport or may feel excluded. This is about more than persuading young girls to have a healthy, active lifestyle – it’s about selling the idea of working in a team and being prepared to put yourself on the line for each other.
Lisa Parfitt, Co-Founder The Space Between
Every game has elicited a very emotional reaction for me. It’s not just a game being played by women, it’s a representation of progress, a destruction of sports gender stereotypes and the just deserts for those who have dedicated decades of personal investment to the women’s game. To those people we owe a great debt of gratitude. The best 15 European countries competing at the Euros are all ranked as top performers in the World Economic Forum Gender Gap reporting. That’s no coincidence. Political empowerment drives investment in women’s programmes and sport which is why global gender equality remains vital to the future of women’s sport and opportunity. What does the CEO of Hewlett Packard, PepsiCo and Mondelez have in common? All women and all played team sports. 94% of C-suite women have played sports. Team sport participation supports girls with their mental & physical health and confidence to help young female leaders rise which is why it’s vital that to reshape the gender landscape of business we must invest in closing the participation gap between girls and boys.
Grace Vella, CEO Miss Kicks
Having been involved in football from an early age, it’s incredible to see the response the Women’s Euros has had across the nation. To me, it has demonstrated that women’s football appeals to a wide range of audiences and can generate the numbers and interest – just look at all the records that have been broken. It’s definitely proved the doubters wrong! The Euros has been a real moment in the history of women’s football. I hope it leaves a legacy and inspires a generation of girls to get involved in the sport, both on and off the pitch. Team sport teaches such valuable lessons and I’d go as far to say playing football changed my life. It gave me something to focus on when I was growing up. It taught me the importance of teamwork, dedication and resilience. These key skills have supported me in my role today, and I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for football.
Nigel Huddleston, Sports Minister
As Sports Minister, I am so proud of what UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 has already delivered and what we can still achieve as it reaches its finale. The tournament has smashed records for both attendance and engagement. However the figures only tell half the story.
I have been lucky enough to attend two matches so far – England’s group games against Austria and Northern Ireland. It struck me how positive the atmosphere was, and well-run the events were, which is a reflection of why we continue to attract the best sporting events in the world to the UK.
Events like the Women’s Euros increase the visibility of women’s sport and supercharge the progress of the sport in reaching new audiences. It is great to see the tremendous impact events such as this can have on inspiring more women and girls to play football and get active.
Amy Clement, co-founder Her Game Too
The UEFA Women’s Euros is a huge mile stone in the growth of women’s football. When I was younger, my football team folded because there was no money for the girls’ team to continue but I am hopeful that this growth opens up opportunities and pathways for young girls to play and develop to a higher level. The visibility of the women’s game is inspiring young girls to achieve and participate in football and with female voices now being more prominent than ever, over time I am hopeful the barriers will be knocked down and football really will be for all.
Nedum Onouha, former Manchester City, QPR & Real Salt Lake footballer
Having the chance to watch some of the best players in the world play so close to home is a real privilege. Showing my kids, and specifically my daughters, that football is a game for all really brings me happiness. The visibly this tournament has brought to women’s football has no doubt inspired many young people to take up the game and I expect the interest will remain in the women’s game. I’m excited to see how this tournament concludes and can’t wait for the start of the WSL season. Team sports can really bring out the best in you because you get the chance to learn about working with others to try and achieve a common goal. In addition there’s the joy of making friends which can last a lifetime. After having played professionally for 16 years, I can’t express how much every one of those seasons and teams I was a part of helped me become the person I am today.