The Lionesses’ success at the European Championship sparked a boom in interest in women’s football

The Lionesses’ success at the Women’s Euros is spurring a heightened interest in women’s football and overcoming a ‘history’ of their exclusion from football, leaders have claimed.

Women’s football clubs have existed in Britain since the 1890s, but the FA banned women’s football in 1921, saying the sport was “quite unsuitable for women” and warning that it should not be “encouraged”. The FA Council lifted the ban in 1971.

Celebrity charities told The Independent that more and more Britons were taking part in the ‘drama and spectacle’ of the Lionesses’ victories, as they concluded their success would inspire more girls to play football.

Data from the Women’s Sports Trust shows that 9.5 million viewers watched earlier this week as England beat Sweden 4-0, setting the record for the most-watched British sports program that year.

The record attendance surpassed the previous record set at the men’s FA Cup final earlier this year, which drew 8.2million viewers.

Women’s Euros 2022 has already broken records for attendances and attendances, and the Lionesses – the nickname of England’s women’s national football team – will play Germany in the final at Wembley in front of a sell-out crowd of 87,000 people on Sunday.

Stephanie Hilborne, Managing Director of Women in Sport, narrates The Independent: “The lionesses had a heavy burden on their shoulders during the European Championship semifinals on Tuesday evening, which was expressed in the faces and emotions of the players after the final whistle.

It was so loud – like at a party. Before the game before the semifinals, there was a sound system and DJs in the stadium – they played Whitney Houston’s song “I Want to Dance with Somebody” and everyone went crazy for it

Ceylon Andi Hickman

“This was about more than winning a game; this was about undoing a history of marginalization of women.”

Ms Hilborne said her research found that twice as many boys as girls aspire to make it to the top echelons of the sport, with just three in ten girls expressing this desire, compared with six in ten boys.

“Now we’re hoping for a meaningful shift as the nation comes together to celebrate the making of history,” she said. “It’s so brilliant that so many men and boys are involved in the drama and spectacle of women’s football because respect for women’s skill in sport goes with respect for women’s lives more broadly.”

She expressed the hope that women’s football would develop into “a game of its own” due to its high quality.

“What we do know is that when there is equal leadership in sport, the culture tends to stay positive,” Ms. Hilborne said. “There is no reason for the women’s game to follow the same path as the men’s game. In fact, there should be a conscious effort to make it unique.”

Ceylon Andi Hickman from Football Beyond Borders, a charity that helps young people from disadvantaged backgrounds The Independent that there was a “profound change” during the Women’s Euros as the demographics of viewers and commentators diversified.

“The atmosphere in the stadiums was electric,” added Ms Hickman, who attended most of England’s games during the tournament.

“It was so loud – like at a party. Before the semifinals, there was a sound system and DJs in the stadium – they played Whitney Houston’s song “I Want to Dance with Somebody” and everyone went crazy for it. They played Harry Styles at halftime and Dua Lipa on the whistle. Teenage girls went crazy.”

The activist, who runs the girls’ program in schools, noted that audiences at women’s football are “more inclusive” than audiences at men’s games.

“A lot of people want to bring kids to women’s football because you don’t have the toxicity or the potential risk. The crowd cuts across demographics,” she added.

“That is the big change of this tournament. They don’t just see the usual suspects in stadiums, discuss them on Twitter or write about them in articles. You see a whole new audience in the stadiums. You could be a six-year-old woman or a 70-year-old woman.”

Ms Hickman, who previously ran the FA’s women’s football training programme, said that in men’s football, certain chants were often used to yell at German players, but this was highly unlikely in the women’s final against Germany.

She also argued that the Lionesses’ success at Euro could increase interest from investors and sponsors and encourage more girls to take up football.

“We are seeing a culmination of years of resources, energy and money,” Ms. Hickman said. “We get to know the players”

However, she warned that women’s football is following the lead of men’s football, becoming overly corporate or discouraging grassroots fans with inflated ticket prices.

“It’s a massive risk,” Ms. Hickman added. “With every product, demand increases, people see changes and that takes away some of the things that were so brilliant about women’s football. It is a duty of the people who govern and drive football to make sure they protect the things that make women’s football so brilliant.”

Tammy Parlor, chief executive of the Women’s Sports Trust, said the strong attendance for the Lionesses’ matches at the Euros showed that women’s football could attract a new audience and welcomed the “massive surge in interest”.

“The great thing is that the broadcast numbers speak for themselves,” she added. “It attracts more sponsors, more brand engagement and more stability for domestic football. When it comes to women’s sport, the fans tend to be more engaged and interested.”

Ms Parlor, who co-founded the Trust after the London 2012 Summer Olympics, added: “As women’s sport has grown, so have we. It’s absolutely exciting to see where we’re coming from.

“It feels like there has been a definite momentum with women’s football. We’re in a place where it’s only going to get bigger. It’s a really exciting place. Barriers are broken down. People are given the opportunity to do something they love.” The Lionesses’ success at the European Championship sparked a boom in interest in women’s football

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