The 2017 UEFA Women’s Championship in the Netherlands is now in full swing, with England’s on-song Lionesses plus another 15 European teams taking part. The women’s game is growing, and this tournament has put the game – and its growth – firmly in the spotlight.
Women’s football is growing at an almost exponential rate across Europe; UEFA statistics reveal the number of registered female players in Europe now totals over 1.25 million. The number of paid-to-play professional and semi-professional female footballers has increased from 1,303 in 2012/13, to 2,853 in 2016/17 – more than doubling over just four years.
‘It’ll never catch on!’
Germany’s group stage draw with Sweden was watched by over 6 million TV viewers in Germany – 22% of the market share, while 2.2 million tuned in to Channel 4 to see the Lionesses beat Scotland. And it’s not just TV – 2000 England fans were in Utrecht for the Lionesses’ 6-0 win over the Scots.
It is fair to say that here in the UK we have been slower than our European friends to recognise the women’s game – France, Germany and Sweden’s national football associations all recognised women’s football in the 70s while the English FA didn’t do so until 1993 – but we are now spending more on women’s football than anywhere else in Europe. We spend just over £13.9 million per year, while France’s budget is just over £8.6 million and Germany’s is around £7.9 million. Iceland takes a different approach, with one dedicated budget for men’s and women’s football, which may ultimately prove a more progressive way of funding the game.
Growing the Game in the UK
The English FA has now established The Gameplan for Growth, a bold and ambitious plan to double participation and create a sustainable high-performance system. The plan is beginning from a position of strength – participation is up by 19% from 2011, and attendance at games in England has been steadily growing with almost 33,000 attending last season’s FA Cup final, more than the average crowd at a Championship match.
Such numbers at women’s football games, however, are not unprecedented. A quite remarkable chapter in the 1920s saw huge crowds attending women’s games – 53,000 packed out Goodison Park in 1920 – before the FA effectively banned women’s football in 1921 and said “the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged”.
Join your local women’s football team
Those antiquated attitudes towards women’s football are happily dying a long overdue death, and with the exposure now being afforded to the game the momentum will surely be maintained. More girls than ever are playing football at school level, and projects like We Play Strong are facilitating a real sense of inclusion for female footballers.
Euro 2017 continues until Sunday August 6 and England’s games are being shown live on Channel 4, with a quarter-final against France up next. If you’ve been inspired by the Lionesses and want to join a local team, find a women’s team in your area – or check out this comprehensive list of teams looking for new players – and get involved in what is now the biggest women’s sport in the country.
KUDOS PASSIONATELY SUPPORTS WOMEN’S FOOTBALL
KUDOS is proud to promote women’s football, and committed to encouraging women and girls from all backgrounds and of all ages to take part in football.
KUDOS SPORTS – A LEADING SUPPLIER OF FOOTBALL KIT FOR WOMEN’S TEAMS
KUDOS supplies custom kit to a range of women’s football clubs across the country – including Carnmoney Ladies FC. We supply custom teamwear that is built for performance and worn with pride.