Women’s football is here to stay, as Women’s Super League opening weekend matches produce record attendances.
‘Football is a man’s game’ is often a statement made in recent years, with men receiving the majority of publicity and funding when playing for their team. However, due to the success of this summer’s Women’s World Cup, the rise of women playing football has been pronounced, so that in some countries the women’s game has become as high profile as the men’s.
The tournament, which saw the USA beat the Netherlands in the final 2-0, was watched by 88% of the Dutch population; the highest TV audience in the country since 2014. Similar stats were seen in England, who made the semi-finals of the tournament, with 11.7 million people tuning in to watch their defeat to the USA.
Such figures not only generate discussion on social media sites, raising the publicity of the game but they evidently inspire future generations. 16 million females worldwide now play football, which is equivalent to the amount of people, both men and women, that play tennis. Such a rise in numbers suggests that although there is still a long way to go, that the women’s game will slowly become as popular and captivating as the men’s.
Female English players have experienced a surge of followers on social media accounts such as Instagram and Twitter, again highlighting their success, and also their ability to inspire and engage with fans.
Why was this World Cup so effective at generating such an atmosphere before every game? Noticeably, the standard of football has risen, with English stars such as Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby being recognised on a national scale, with manager Phil Neville even admitting he believes his right-back Bronze is ‘the best player in the world.’ This obviously heightens the chance of success, and with the English team advancing to the semi- finals, it drew more and more attention from the fans.
The improvement in talent also sees more competitive fixtures, and whilst America were the stand-out team of the summer, there is no denying their game against England was filled with tension the entire 90 minutes. Not only this, but the media are also responsible for raising the profile and excitement of the game. Papers such as the Daily Mail and the Guardian included coverage of the world cup on their front pages, as well as the BBC showcasing all the games.
Significant English media outlets showcasing the women’s game no doubt engaged more viewers, whom probably wanted the ‘buzz’ of the 2018 men’s world cup to continue and for their team to ‘bring it home’.
Perhaps the clearest evidence of the effect of the Women’s World Cup is the record breaking attendance seen at the Etihad Stadium on the 7th September, where Manchester City’s ladies beat rivals Man Utd 1-0. Over 31,000 people attended the game, a figure six times higher than the previous women’s super league record of 5,265. This signifies a dramatic rise in the women’s sport, and will hopefully encourage future generations to continue making an impact.