England broke football records on Monday night when the Lionesses became the first side in European history (men or women’s) to score eight goals in a single game — the biggest margin of victory in the European Championships ever.
Securing a place at the Euro quarterfinals with the landmark win against Norway, England demonstrated the success that comes from investing in women’s sport: 'The players are getting better, the facilities are improving…the coaches are improving, the support, the fan base, the sponsorship, the TV coverage—everything has just multiplied so much,’ England defender Lucy Bronze told Grazia before the tournament started.
Women’s football has only been legal since 1921, after the Football Association deemed the sport ‘quite unsuitable for females’ and banned women from playing at their grounds. ‘As much as everything’s improved, every single area can keep improving,’ Lucy notes.
‘Things like, a lot of women’s teams only have one physiotherapist where men’s Premier League team have like 10,’ she elaborates. ‘Those things make a difference when you have 20-30 athletes trying to perform at a high level— Things are good, but they could be better.’
‘It’s not 100% where it should be. It’s not perfect,’ Lucy continues. ‘[Women’s football] still needs more resources and more effort put into it. But we’re on the right track and the most important thing is that we all keep pushing and we know we’re in a good place.’
One in five men in the UK are still opposed to equal coverage of men’s and women’s sport on television, according to research by YouGov. Yet public demand to watch the Lionesses games is also breaking records: 68,871 fans piled into Old Trafford to watch England beat Austria at the start of the tournament—the largest crowd at any women’s Euro’s match to date.
‘The fan base that we have for women’s football now is unbelievable,’ says Lucy. ‘Not only in England, but across Europe and around the world. Sports fans want to come and watch the best players play - they’re filling out stadiums - and we’re playing in front of the most fans we’ve ever had.’
Women’s football is only expected to increase in the UK following the Lionesses’ success. 10.5 million women in the UK are set to be inspired to join football teams after the Euros, with England player Jordan Nobbs championing Just Eat's The 101 network to help female-led grassroots clubs take off in anticipation of the demand their research has predicted.
Aware that the in-awe eyes of the nation are on her team as they pray for football to finally come home, England manager Sarina Wiegman told reporters of the squad’s success: ‘That is what we hope to do – make the nation proud.'