Women’s football has been on a steady, upwards climb in popularity for a number of years now, but recently success with the 2019 Women’s World Cup and large stadiums attendances at the beginning of the current Women’s Super League season show that the momentum is really with the women’s game right now. It’s just a matter of making sure those in control of the game seize the opportunity they now have.
As interest in the women’s game grows, it is necessary that organisations involved come together to ensure that in this most crucial of steps it is supported to reach the next step. The foundations have been built, the business case of sorts for the game itself proven clearly – there is an audience out there, hungry for the sport – and now it just needs the necessary backing.
It’s about development now. With the groundwork in place, the quality of women’s footballers are ever improving. Top-flight sides are now finding themselves in the position to offer full-time, professional deals and therefore be able to provide the necessary training to their stars.
Technically, that impact can be seen clear as day in the current, youthful breed of women’s footballers.
They are highly competent footballers, especially in attack. What must come next, in order to silence the remaining critics of the sport, is further work in terms of physicality and tactical development.
These can only come with longer time spent on the training fields and in the club gyms. Players have to be reached younger, and they are beginning to be so. As this happens, physicality will increase and women’s football will with it become more competitive and of a standard even more similar to their more developed male equivalent.
Pace is important in the women’s game, but mistakes and lower stamina levels, which only the very top women’s teams seem largely void of, mean there are fewer sides able to compete week in, week out. There are clear dominant teams.
Yes, it will take time to address this to the necessary extent, but the progress that has been made in even just the last four years since the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada is frankly remarkable. The quality then was just starting to emerge, with the glimmers of top-level success among the very best sides. In France this summer, so many sides had positive, world-class female footballers on display.
And all that was without the women’s best footballer, Norway’s Ada Hegerberg, who opted out of the tournament as part of an ongoing dispute.
Women’s football is at a crossroads. The game has come so far, and now needs that necessary support to reach the next level. It needs this development, as mentioned, to reach the next level of success and widespread acceptance on the pitch. The next generation are already growing up accepting the women’s game, and that is exciting.
Women’s football has become normalised to them. They have grown up seeing it draw in big crowds, and it will only continue to develop and become more skilful and closely matched to its male counterpart as the years pass.
Commercially, reaching that stage is the big necessary. There are constant calls for equal pay between male and female footballers and it is without question that efforts should be made to speed up the development of the women’s game to get it to viable commercial levels all on its own. The men’s game has taken nearly 50 years of televised football, development and widespread support and acceptance to reach it’s current, ludicrous commercial value – we can’t wait 50 more years for women’s football to join the party.
Yet, the outright calls for straight parity may well not be the answer either. A large reason male footballers are often earning such vast sums is not just the wages involved directly, but the wealth of commercial sponsorship involved in football both of players and clubs.
Women’s football doesn’t have this currently, simply because it doesn’t have the audience for advertisers to financially view it as worthy of the same figures. So, that should be where we target. Use the opportunity of the recent popularity boom, and push attendances to regularly vast figures. Women’s football needs more money, but if it can come through making the sport appealing to advertisers then suddenly it develops in a much more independent and viable manner.