This Sunday, the Women’s World Cup final will take place in Lyon’s Groupama Stadium. It is quite fitting that the final is held at the home of the world’s best women team. The Lyon women’s team has some of the worlds best players from each country. From France there is Wendie Renard who is the captain and plays in defence, Dzsenifer Marozsán a midfielder from Germany who missed part of the World Cup through injury and only made a 2nd half appearance in the quarter finals vs Sweden, Lucy Bronze and Nikita Parris also play for Lyon, which has helped to establish Bronze as the world’s best full back and finally Ada Hegerberg who won the first ever Women’s Ballon Dor in the new year. This Lyon team have been able to win the Champions League 6 times as well as winning the French league 17 times. But, it is not about the Lyon team, it is more about the fact that this World Cup will change the way women’s football is viewed from now on, and is being done in the most fitting of places.
Womens football all around the world has been progressing slowly as it gets more investment from clubs and sponsors. The impact of this can be seen in England, where the WSL has begun to produce world class players, who are then poached by Lyon or Wolfsburg, but Barcelona, Juventus and Atletico Madrid are also slowly becoming European names. This has been due to major teams such as Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City as well as more recently Man Utd all having women teams where they have significant investment. The results can be seen in the national team as well. In 2015, England women finished 3rd in the World Cup, in the European Championship they lost in the semi-finals to eventual winners the Netherlands, and in 2019 they lost in the semi-finals again to the USA the worlds best womens national team. This England team has attracted a new group of supporters, as everyone has enjoyed watching the team and got behind them. In the group stages around 6 million people watched them beat Scotland as well as Japan. However, in the semi-finals the team managed to attract 12 million viewers. This resulted in the match becoming the most watched TV programme in 2019. The semi-final losses have put England at risk of becoming known as the nearly team such as the Netherlands men’s team due to their failure to make finals and winning anything, however this is promising for the Olympics next year as well as the Euros in 2021 where they are in England itself. This will attract a lot of support as more people will want to see this team achieve more than what they have done so far, as this England team don’t carry around the same hoodoo as the mens team.
Away from England, this World Cup has attracted more people with 960,000 fans total attending every game. As I was able to attend 3 of those games, so I do have a first hand experience of the atmosphere. The atmosphere of the games are very timid, which is expected as it is a more family aimed event compared to the mens games. This is due to the amount of little children witnessing their first footballing experience. But, this is not necessarily a negative as it can help them either get hooked on the sport, or have a role model. For example, girls in England can now look up to the England women’s players instead of the mens players, it may also tempt more people to take up football. This can then create a bigger talent pool for England to pick players from once developed, similarly this can be seen throughout the rest of the teams at the World Cup, this is how the USA currently work. However, there have been a lack of seats being taken up in games by locals, showing it can struggle to attract local fans, but this may be due to FIFA not allowing tickets to be bought on the day. The teams that have brought the most atmosphere have been England and the Netherlands, with the Netherlands bringing 15,000 fans to the 25,000 seater Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes.
There have been problems that have arisen in this tournament, which could easily have occurred in the mens game as well, this is notably VAR. Wrong decisions have been made throughout the tournament, but this has mainly been based around penalties. But there have also been disallowed goals which have been crucial in the way a game was going, such as England disallowed goal against the USA in the semi-final which would of taken the game to 2-2.
Overall, the publicity and exposure that the womens World Cup has recieved is nothing but positive. Players will start getting more money and will be able to become full-time players, the facilities and overall quality of the game will slowly improve, and sooner than people think womens football will be not that far behind and you will see equal crowds at womens games to mens, and the womens teams will also be able to play in the mens stadiums as well, rather than smaller ones, and the overall aim will be that equal pay between teams will occur. This is just the beginning of the rise of womens football, so expect to see more from players such as Lucy Bronze and Nikita Parris from England as well as many more.