Commentary: Women ended England’s 56-year football drought. Give them the respect and funding they deserve
Last season, Tottenham were the best supported women’s team with an average attendance of 8,000 with the men’s team bringing in 60,000. Manchester United’s women were watched by 4,000 while the men attracted around 75,000.
The men’s teams have been going since the 19th century, so it was always going to take time for the women to catch up. Consider too that women were banned from playing football in England from 1921 to 1971, with the Football Association saying it was “unsuitable for women”. Already strides have been made since the league’s first season in 2011 when the average attendance was 550.
England is an important football nation and is followed around the world and the country needs to set an example in taking the next step. Equal pay in football may be some distance away but the recent success needs to help provide equal opportunities for young girls to take up their sports with the necessary facilities, coaching and support.
“People would always say the standards aren’t the same but that is because the funding was never there,” said Lucy Abbott, a former player, told Manchester Evening News earlier this week. “This tournament has shown that women deserve the funding just as much as the men do.”
The victorious England team on Aug 3 wrote an open letter to the next British Prime Minister (either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak will replace Boris Johnson on Sep 5), asking for change.
“We want every young girl in the nation to be able to play football at school,” the team said.
“Currently only 63 per cent of girls can play football in PE lessons. The reality is we are inspiring young girls to play football, only for many to end up going to school and not being able to play. We ask you and your government to ensure that all girls have access to a minimum of two hours a week PE.”
Both prime ministerial candidates fell over themselves to respond quickly and positively.
“Liz wants equal access to all sports for boys and girls, and supports campaigns such as the FA’s Let Girls Play campaign,” Liz Truss’s spokeswoman said. Rishi Sunak has committed himself to a governmental review of the women’s game.