All Good Things Must Come To An End

lionesses millie bright womens world cup miss kick
Emily Laycock
Emily Laycock

Wow. What a month. The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 has come to an end, and it’s hard to put into words how incredible this tournament has been. Women’s football has been put on the map in so many parts of the world with so many teams breaking records, creating history and inspiring their nations, but all good things must come to an end.

With attendance records broken and viewership figures reaching a new high, it’s fair to say women’s football is attracting quite the crowd. 7.3 million people watched the World Cup semi-final between England and Australia according to BBC One, whilst a total of 1,978,274 people attended the matches in total - the biggest Women’s World Cup in history, surpassing the previous record of 1.35 million set at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. It’s crazy to think that prior to the start of the tournament there was question in the UK as to which channels would be broadcasting the game with concern over the amount of people actually interested and wanting to tune in. Now, that seems absurd.

This tournament has acted as the catalyst for change within the women’s game.

Following the Matildas’ success, the Australian government have unveiled a AUS$200 million women’s sports fund, ensuring more is done to help women play sport in the country. The Matildas broke record after record on their World Cup journey, reaching the semi-final for the first time in their history and setting new attendance milestones in their home tournament too. They have become role models for young girls wanting to play sport in Australia, and whilst they may not have come away with a medal, the change they have inspired can still instil a great sense of pride within this team.

The occasion of the USA being knocked out in the round of 16 demonstrated that the women’s game is evolving. They were the dominant force in the sport for years winning four World Cup titles since 1991, but the world is catching up. It just goes to show what can be achieved when we choose to invest in women’s sport.

Our Lionesses reached a World Cup final for the first time ever, and inspired a nation in doing so. It wasn’t meant to be on the day with Spain ultimately lifting the trophy and taking home the gold medals, but this is only the beginning for this team, and for women’s football in England.

England captain, Leah Williamson, who missed out on the tournament through injury, took to social media after the final saying, “These girls are not the princesses that USED to grace your bedtime stories. They are the warriors of today that had a voice when there was no say, or sway. They rewrite the definition of strength year on year and know they are their own competition. Tomorrow to them just sounds like an opportunity. You just need to listen.”

This nation is proud of our Lionesses. They dared to dream and have shown that women’s football is here to stay, despite adversity. They have brought fans immense highs, and have continued to battle through the lows with a winning mentality that makes me sure they will come back stronger than ever, because their best is yet to come. They have become role models and will always be remembered as the team that created history.

That final was much more than a game of football - it was the start of growth, change and acceptance for the women’s game. But there’s still a long way to go.

Mary Earps is the best Women’s Goalkeeper in the world, saved a penalty in the Women’s World Cup final to keep England’s dreams alive, and was presented with the Golden Glove award at the end of the tournament, yet fans still cannot purchase a replica of her goalkeeper shirt like they can for outfield players because Nike refused to manufacture it for commercial reasons. Prior to the start of the tournament, Earps described this decision as “hugely hurtful” and said “it’s a very scary message that’s being sent to goalkeepers worldwide that “you’re not important”. The women’s game is growing, and rightly so, but there is still more that needs to be done. It’s hard to comprehend that young boys and girls cannot wear a goalkeeper shirt with ‘Earps’ on the back, even with the Lionesses having achieved so much in the last few years, and Mary Earps herself continuing to shine on the biggest stage. It isn’t sending the message female footballers are fighting so hard to send that equality is needed within the sport, and that ever player, position, member of staff is central to success.

It has been an incredible summer for women’s football, but we need to build upon these foundations and continue to push the game in an upward trajectory. The Women’s Super League returns in October and we can watch so many of the stars that shone at the World Cup, competing with their clubs, whilst also striving to support our local women’s teams. And as our captain once said, “The English are never done.”

Photo/Getty Images

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