What an amazing month of football this has been!
The result is a women’s final between England and Germany that could break the all-time record attendance for a EUROs final – in either the men’s or women’s game.
Sarina Wiegman’s squad have captured the nation’s imagination with their skill, grit and determination.
But the Euros has done far more than deliver a summertime celebration of football. It has highlighted how far we have come in changing attitudes to women’s sport.
More than 500,000 tickets sold – more than doubling the total attendance for any previous women’s Euros – of which nearly 100,000 have been children, nearly half of all fans have been female, and sell-out crowds wherever the Lionesses have played.
For the players, there has been progress too. We now have some bespoke sponsorship and broadcast rights deals, the England men’s and women’s senior players are now paid the same match fee, and clubs in the top two tiers of domestic football are introducing improved contracts and employment rights.
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At grassroots level, football is the most played grassroots team sport for women and girls in England, with more than three million players registered.
This is all worth celebrating, yet there remains much more to be done. The success of staging events like the Euros can only be built on if we place an equal emphasis on addressing things like improved participation, employment opportunities, commercial investment or visibility in the media, as well as bringing new audiences to the game.
The Government has committed to playing its part – we supported the women’s game during the pandemic with £2.9 million in grant funding through our Sport Survival Package to the Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship, and have supported the EURO 2022 tournament with £4.6 million.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup and Women’s Euros have been added to the list of events that must be made available to free-to-air television broadcasters, and we’ve announced that a review of the domestic women’s game will launch later this summer, to look at how to grow the game at elite and grassroots level.
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Right now, we’re also investing an extra £230 million into building or upgrading up to 8,000 grassroots football and multi-sport facilities by 2025. This will help to support the FA’s ambition for the tournament to create half a million extra opportunities for women and girls to play football.
This all means more opportunities to access football outside the school gates but I absolutely agree with Ian Wright – schools must listen to which sports their pupils want to play. The National Curriculum for PE in schools does not differentiate in relation to sex, and we continue to generously fund and promote equal opportunities access to sport through the PE and Sport Premium, backing up all our efforts to help more girls to take part in sport and physical activity.
So as millions of us watch the Euros conclude tonight on home soil and urge the Lionesses on, it’s absolutely right that we celebrate how far we have come.
But we must capitalise on these powerful moments, take an honest look at how we can continue to improve the infrastructure that sustains women’s and girl’s football in this country, and inspire the next generation to get into our national sport.
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