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ᑕ❶ᑐ Women’s European Championship: ten years, six defining moments

From record attendance numbers to huge viewing figures, the growth of women’s football in England has been rapid in recent years.

The Lionesses’ success on the pitch has sparked renewed interest in the sport and, while there is still room for improvement, the progress off the pitch over the past decade cannot be underestimated. and should result in a record crowd for a women’s game. in England when the hosts take on Germany in the Euro 2022 final at Wembley on Sunday.

BBC Sport identifies six key moments over the past 10 years that have brought English women’s football to where it is today…

“A Whole New Level”

Highlights: Great Britain 1-0 Brazil

It was a moment described by BBC commentator Guy Mowbray as having the potential to take women’s football “to a whole new level”.

Almost ten years ago, 70,584 spectators turned out at Wembley Stadium to watch the British team beat tournament favorites Brazil 1-0 at the 2012 Olympics, becoming the biggest crowd ever to watch a UK women’s international at home.

It broke the previous record for a women’s match in England – set on Boxing Day 1920 in a match between Preston-based team Dick Kerr Ladies and St Helens Ladies at Goodison Park – by more than 17,000.

The record stood just over a week, with 80,203 participants nine days later for the Olympic final to be seen the United States beat Japan at Wembley.

This remains the record for a women’s game in England. Lionesses’ attendance record for a home international was broken in 2019 when 77,768 people watched them lose 2-1 to Germany friendly at Wembley.

“Lion Lover”

Now BBC pundit Fara Williams scored in England’s semi-final defeat to Japan in 2015

In 2015, Mark Sampson’s side became the first England side to reach a World Cup semi-final since Italy 90 with a historic round of 16 win over Canada in Vancouver.

Despite the kick-off time of 00.30am BST, more than 1.6million people tuned in to watch the victory, heralded by the FA’s director of women’s football, Kelly Simmons, as “the moment when the great audience fell in love with the Lionesses.

Sampson’s team lost to eventual winners Japan in the last four, but in the third-place play-off, England recorded a historic victory over Germany thanks to Fara Williams’ extra-time penalty.

Off-court moves were already underway to maintain the growing momentum behind the women’s game. The women’s development programme, launched in 2013 and meant to last two years, has secured a further year of joint investment from the FA and Sport England – in the region of €3.7 million – to engage thousands of more women and girls in football.

The program originally aimed to attract 40,000 new female players to get into football, but exceeded that target by more than 2,000 in its first two years.

By the time the FA’s three-year ‘Gameplan for Growth’ strategy ended in 2020, it was estimated that more than 3.4 million female gamers were involved in the game.

Semi-final defeat smashes audience records

England’s big victory in the semi-finals over Sweden was watched by a peak TV audience of 9.3 million on the BBC, but the record viewing figure for a Lionesses game was set three years ago.

A peak audience of over 11.7 million tuned in to their heartbreaking World Cup semi-final loss to the United States in 2019, breaking all-time viewership records for the third time within fifteen days.

These remarkable figures beat the combined digital and TV total of 11.3 million people who watched the 2019 Men’s Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool in Madrid.

The previous women’s record before the 2019 World Cup was four million viewers, set in the Lionesses’ Euro 2017 loss to the Netherlands.

More fans, more venues

European Women's Championship: ten years, six defining moments
Record crowds watched the Manchester derby in September 2019

Aiming to capitalize on the heightened interest in women’s football following the 2019 World Cup, Manchester City and Chelsea have taken the decision to move their 2019-20 Women’s Super League openers to the Etihad Stadium and Stamford respectively. Bridge.

The first WSL Manchester derby at City’s main stadium – which ended in a 1-0 win over the hosts – was attended by a record 31,213, while 24,564 turned up the following day to see Chelsea host their London rivals Tottenham.

City’s head of women’s football Gavin Makel said the club wanted to kick off the new campaign “with a bang”, while Chelsea described the change as a “celebration of women’s football”.

The WSL attendance record set on the opening day of the 2019-20 season was broken again in November of that year, when 38,262 turned up for Spurs’ 2-0 loss to Arsenal, a north London rival, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. WSL record which still stands today.

FA announce ‘historic’ TV deal

In March 2021, the FA announced a “historic” three-year agreement with BBC and Sky – considered the biggest of its kind in any professional women’s football league in the world – for the WSL broadcast rights.

The €7-8million deal runs until 2024 and, according to Simmons, combines two of the FA’s top priorities: increasing the league’s visibility and attracting investment to further develop its quality.

“It’s one of the biggest business deals, certainly for women’s football in terms of the domestic contract, and up there for women’s sport,” Simmons said of the deal, which has helped boost “nearly quadrupled” viewing hours in 2021-22 compared to the previous campaign.

“It’s a moment to celebrate – a watershed moment in the future of the WSL,” added FA chief commercial and marketing officer Kathryn Swarbrick. “This is going to be a huge step forward in achieving our ambition to have the best domestic women’s professional league in the world. »

A taste of what awaits you?

The Lionesses may not have produced the perfect and smooth performance they were hoping for in their Euro 2022 opener against Austria at Old Trafford, but they could hardly have wished for a better atmosphere. at the Theater of Dreams on July 6.

A crowd of 68,871 – a record attendance for a European Women’s Championship match – saw Sarina Wiegman’s side kick off their campaign with a 1-0 victory, courtesy of Beth Mead’s first-half goal.

Fans from both sides – many of them families – gathered outside the pitch hours before kick-off, while the opening ceremony featured a spectacular fireworks display. When Mead calmed the nerves of the home fans with his chipped finish on the crossbar, heckling ensued among the home faithful.

“It was amazing. No more words,” Wiegman said of the atmosphere, which set the tone for what was a memorable tournament both on and off the pitch.

Sunday’s final crowd could break the record crowd for any Euros game – men’s or women’s – with the current record of 79,115 for the 1964 men’s final at the Bernabeu in Madrid.

Tickets have sold out for Wembley, which has an 87,200 capacity for the Euro 2022 showdown between England and Germany.

European Women's Championship: ten years, six defining moments

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European Women's Championship: ten years, six defining moments

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