Thoughts on the Women's Euros, by Eleanor Lee

Words by Eleanor Lee, Images from Joe Perch

We’ve come a long way in a short amount of time. Rewind to the 2009 Women’s Euro Championships and unless you were a super fan - you're unlikely to have heard much about the tournament at all. England’s women finished runners up to champions Germany, an achievement that would’ve surely made back page headlines and have been on the lips of the nation for weeks if it had it been our men’s team. Turns out - the coverage was pitiful. Eight years ago, our girls were hidden behind television’s red button. There was no sight of a successful media campaign to back the tournament, with hardly any of England’s matches being broadcasted on an accessible channel- the final just about made it to BBC 2.

This year, the Lionesses made it to the semis, only to be knocked out by the eventual Dutch champions. Of course it was disappointing to not bring any silver ware back to blighty, but the ferociousness and tenacity with which the girls played meant this was another successful tournament, and a pleasure to watch. On paper, the two tournaments weren't that dissimilar. The main difference? People actually knew it was happening.  

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Channel 4 broadcasted every single one of England’s games, as well the quarters, semis and the final. Alongside this they published an impressive media campaign which encouraged the UK pubic to show their support and get involved, with a specific focus on our younger female fans. My personal favourite was the Little Mix advert. Intertwining the biggest girl group of this day into a sporting campaign proves to younger girls that it’s ‘cool’ to want to watch and play football. For too long girls have been made to feel that football isn’t for them, but the image of Little Mix donning England shirts teamed with the lyrics “ladies all across the world listen up we’re looking for recruits” did more than turn heads, it encouraged people to tune in. 3.3 million people watched the Lionesses quarter final against France -  the biggest ever television audience for women’s football.

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Not only did the amount of coverage improve, but also the quality. The women’s 2009 Euro’s lacked a strong television campaign and the production was messy with commentators and pundits that, with all due respect, didn’t know enough about the players. This year has seen Ian Wright, Michael Owen and of course Kelly Smith feature alongside Claire Balding, and commentators with extensive knowledge of past tournaments, matches and players. 

Although there are a lot of positives to draw from this year’s tournament, we’re not at the finish line yet with the divide between men and women's football being all too apparent, not just in England. The 2017 Women’s European Championships has so far resulted in the most interaction we’ve ever seen from ladies football in this country, which is promising - but what comes next? Can the Lionesses, the FA and UEFA capitalise on this opportunity to get more people watching the women's games? With audiences of 3.3 million, it certainly seems possible. It will be interesting to see where else we have made advances come the women’s World Cup in 2019. Not only is it a very exciting time to a female football fan, it’s exciting to be a fan of female football.

Steph Houghton - This Fan Girl

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AMY DRUCQUER