How can England build on their Euro 2022 triumph?

Our writers offer five big ideas to grow women’s football after the Lionesses ended 56 years of hurt

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Suzanne Wrack: Level the playing field in the Women’s Super League

There has been a lot of investment in the women’s game in England and it is more competitive – but there is still a massive gap between the biggest clubs in the Women’s Super League (WSL) and the rest. The likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City are so far ahead. While a leading striker such as Chelsea’s Sam Kerr earns upwards of £300,000 a year, the average WSL salary is reportedly around a tenth of that.

You also have a real gulf between the WSL and the rest. Look at Leicester: they have the backing of a big Premier League side and when they were promoted into the WSL, they invested heavily, have a really good young coach, new training facilities and are playing in the main stadium. Everything was set up for them to succeed. But they were on the end of a few heavy defeats. That is a reflection of the gap.

To make the league more competitive, there is a case to be made that the clubs should be committing money into a central pot that is then distributed, rather than investing in their own sides. That could make a difference quickly. At the moment, it feels as though we are on a journey towards the Premier League Mark II. That is because they want to get the big clubs onboard to accelerate growth – but this tide is not going to raise all the boats, which is what you need. There is a danger that they build the castle without the foundations.

Suzanne Wrack is women’s football correspondent for the Guardian and the Observer and the author of A Woman’s Game: The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Women’s Football

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Faye Carruthers: England should bid to host the next World Cup

There is already a joint bid between Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands for the 2027 World Cup. But because of the success of the Euros, it is going to be a hotly contested bidding process. And England should be part of it.

It is important for people to see the country is keen to host, to maintain momentum. With the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year, the time difference means that for fans over here, it is not going to get the same amount of traction as this home tournament has done.

The Lionesses have secured a swathe of new fans because of what they have achieved this summer. Success breeds support, which transfers on to the domestic game and then further down the pyramid to participation.

Faye Carruthers is host of the Guardian’s Women’s Football Weekly podcast. Listen to the Monday morning reaction edition here.

Louise Taylor: Make the next school year a watershed for the girls’ game

At present, only 44% of secondary schools offer girls and boys equal access to football within the school day. Just 40% of schools offer identical footballing opportunities to girls during evenings, weekends and holidays. If we are to produce the best possible England teams of the future – not to mention have a healthier and happier female population – that needs to change.

Right now, far too much potential female talent is being left overlooked and untapped. We must hope headteachers all over the country are energised by the Euros and cease to pay mere lip service to sporting equality for girls.

Louise Taylor is north-east football correspondent for the Guardian

Sophie Downey: We should just market the hell out of it

I have followed the women’s game for 10 years and it is massively different from where it was. That 9.3 million viewers watched the England v Sweden semi-final is just ridiculous. But, crucially, it is now about maintaining that coverage because, as we have seen in the past, there is a drop-off in terms of attendance and coverage after major tournaments. We have a responsibility as the media to make sure the game is at the forefront of people’s minds for the next year.

The way we have marketed women’s football in the past has not always been right. For a long time, we have targeted young children, specifically girls. We mixed up the participation element with the attendance element. We have to realise that there are so many different demographics to talk to and we should just market the hell out of it over the next year, because the demand is clearly there.

Sophie Downey is a freelance football writer and regular contributor to the Guardian’s women’s football newsletter, Moving the Goalposts

Jen Offord: Don’t lose what makes the women’s game so special

In theory, it would be possible for women’s football to be its own game completely, with its own clubs and its own structure not linked to the men’s game. In practice, I do not think that is going to happen: it is going to be the “one club” approach that continues, with women’s teams as part of the same organisations. That will mean more money going into the women’s game – and women should have equal access to those resources. However, the “one club” idea is disingenuous. The teams are not valued equally – there is a clear hierarchy.

Money is part of what can be so toxic in the men’s game – it breeds resentment among fans, players become so wealthy that they are almost seen as not a real person and cannot be touched by abuse. Whereas the women’s game has a much nicer vibe: more celebratory, less bitterness. None of this business of middle-aged men shouting abuse at boys young enough to be their sons. I would have no problem taking my daughter to a match when she is old enough, whereas I might with the men’s game.

I have this sense that the women’s game has a freedom and a passion that we do not always see in the men – like they really want to be there. And that is joyful to watch. As the game grows, I really hope we never lose that.

Jen Offord hosts the Standard Issue podcast and wrote The Year of the Robin, an account of Charlton Athletic’s struggles during a pandemic season. Read her recent Guardian piece, The Euros prove it: women’s football is not like men’s – and that’s good

  • This piece originally appeared in the Guardian’s First Edition newsletter. Sign up here.


Suzanne Wrack, Faye Carruthers, Louise Taylor, Sophie Downey and Jen Offord

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