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Euro 2022: From PE to players’ pay, extra investment needed so spotlight on women’s football doesn’t fade

Written by on 1 August 2022

After all those oh-so-nears, all those years of hurt, finally there’s a new group of England champions.

Football finally came home: 31 July 2022 joins 30 July 1966 as a landmark day in the history of the nation, resonating beyond sport.

This is a group of Lionesses whose backing and status reached new highs throughout the European Championship.

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Lionesses storm news conference 0:38 Singing squad storm news conference

A gathering momentum, peaking with Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Germany, gives the players an acclaim generations of women were denied.

When England’s men picked up the World Cup from the Queen in 1966, there was no possibility of English women winning silverware. It was only in 1971 that the FA lifted a half-century ban on women playing organised football.

Even then, there was not the support, financially or logistically, from the FA. That only started to come from 1993.

And yet it took until just before Euro 2009 – when England eventually lost the final to Germany – for players to be awarded central contracts by the FA.

The foundations were laid for women to make a career out of playing football, rather than having to fit in second jobs.

But it was only four years ago that the Women’s Super League (WSL) – created by the FA in 2011 – became fully professional.

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England's lionesses bring it home. The fans take a moment from celebrating the 2-1 victory over Germany to share how important this win is to them. 0:46 England win ‘the best experience of my life’

The glamour and national focus on the Lionesses should not mask the fact that WSL players are earning tens of thousands of pounds a year, rather than every week, as men enjoy in the Premier League.

Winning the Euros should attract a new legion of sponsors: it’s not just about ensuring players are better remunerated for their work, but about funding the technical and coaching resources that will develop the game even further.

Extra investment will be needed in grassroots infrastructure, particularly to ensure a greater diversity in the talent pool available to future England coaches.

And the onus falls on schools to provide the opportunity for all girls to play football. Only 63% of schools provide equal access for girls through PE lessons.

When the new school term starts, the opportunity cannot be lost for girls inspired to emulate Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses.

Read more:
In pictures – England’s historic win over Germany in final
The Queen, Spice Girls and Three Lions stars react to England’s win

WSL clubs are ready to harness the moment. Anfield, Stamford Bridge and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium are lined up for games next season, rather than the usual secondary, smaller club stadiums.

The players who won the Euros in front of more than 87,000 fans at Wembley – a record for a Euros game, men’s or women’s – have the platform to ensure the spotlight doesn’t fade after the England victory party.

Then, there’s the small matter of following up becoming European champions by trying to collect the Women’s World Cup for the first time next year in Australia.

The hurt is over, the opportunities are aplenty.