Players, technicians, club presidents, journalists, followers, for several months, French women’s football and its actors have been worried about its future. Even if its flag, the France team, is advancing as one of the favorites for Euro 2022, French football is bogged down in immobility.
France is on the verge of becoming this disappointed and ashamed rabbit, overtaken by the slow and valiant tortoise. If there is no point in running and you have to leave on time as La Fontaine’s Fable submits, French women’s football has been sleeping on its laurels for a few years, despite successive alerts from its main players.
“We are falling behind, because others have accelerated faster. By putting economic and financial resources as a priority on women’s football, it is undeniable that nations are moving faster.”
– Jean-Michel Aulas, President of OL
In fact, the lead it held over its neighbors on the Old Continent has shrunk considerably. So much so that the landscape of European football and the balance of power hitherto rather very favorable, thanks in particular to the locomotives that have been OL and PSG, could quickly switch against it after this Euro 2022.
Let’s take a quick look at the positive points, which the president of the FFF Noël Le Graet gargled about last February when the governing body announced its candidacy to organize the European Women’s Championship in 2025.
First of all, there is the awareness of the youngest. Even if we started from very very far, to say nothing, the women’s sections are developing in colleges and high schools and 8 hopeful centers (Blagnac, Clairefontaine, Liévin, Lyon, Mérignac, Rennes, Strasbourg and Tours) criss-cross France.
With nearly 197,700 licensees in 2022, France remains in the lead on the subject with Germany and England (210,000 in 2021 and 121,000 in 2019). “At the end of the World Cup in France, the Fed wanted 200,000 licensees, it got them and we said it’s great and nothing has changed. We have to start again”nevertheless tempers the journalist Léo Corcos.
Structurally, mediatically, economically, France is lagging behind in the pillars to sustain the success of its football and help it grow. “Where we need to wake up is especially at the level of the Federation. It is necessary to improve the infrastructures, the stadiums, the conditions of retransmission on TV. We need today to have a strong D1. There’s an emergency, I’m ringing the alarm bell”confirmed on TF1, the coach of the Gones women’s team, Sonia Bompastor
“After the 2015 World Cup, many countries woke up: Spain, England, Italy which has just professionalized its championship. We are not moving forward. “
– Dounia Mesli, journalist
Unlike its neighbors who have professionalized their championships or are in the process of doing so, the D1 Arkema still offers striking contrasts between pro, semi-pro or amateur players. “The 100% pro players represent a minority, it’s indecentcomments Alexandre as a wise follower. We are even at a point where Ada Hegerberg, a Norwegian, is forced to rant on social networks to try to make the authorities react.
“We don’t even have a real collective agreement like Spain, the USA or England. We were on the verge of reducing D1 to 10 clubs, we have just approved a D3”adds Léo Corcos, supporting the vagueness which still surrounds today the very structuring and the ambitions of the authorities for its women’s football.
Obviously, this immobility does not feed the attractiveness of the French championship both for players, spectators and broadcasters. On this last bridge, where Canal+ pays 1.2M per season to broadcast D1 Arkema, the English championship has won a deal of 8.1M for three seasons. In Spain, Mediapro releases nearly 3M per season.
And where D1 Arkema is still struggling to fill its stadiums, the English and Spanish championships have exploded attendance records this season. The Camp Nou notably welcomed 91,648 spectators for the first leg of the Champions League semi-final between Barça and Wolfsburg in April.
By offering better working conditions and greater competitiveness, the clubs in these championships logically attract more and more stars of women’s football. The latter no longer automatically go to Lyon. For example, in 2021, Alex Morgan went for a ride alongside Tottenham and Rose Lavelle at Manchester City. Even our Tricolores are starting to export themselves like Sandie Toletti to Levante, Eve Perisset to Chelsea or Pauline Peyraud-Magnin to Juventus.
As long as the French championship does not pass the first stage of this virtuous circle, namely professionalization, French women’s football seems condemned to purr and lose ground. The frustration is so great on the part of the various players that some would almost hope for a rapid elimination of the France team: just so that it does not serve as a tree that hides the forest, like the successes of Lyon and Paris before it.
“A failure at the Euros will perhaps shed light on the true reality of football for girls. a double project during their career and some a job in addition to football.”
– Frédérique, spectator and player
If a poor performance at the Euro could serve as an electric shock, the FFF could also say to itself “ok, now that it’s winning, we invest more”, adds Dounia Mesli. Basically, no one wants to see Les Bleues crumble before lifting the trophy at Wembley. But whatever happens, everyone hopes that, regardless of the result, French women’s football will finally resume its march forward.