Another inquest was on the cards after England failed to match their potential at a major tournament. But what or who was at fault for England only reaching the quarter-finals of this summer’s Women’s World Cup?
This year’s World Cup staged in Germany was a resounding success. Massive television audiences, packed to capacity stadiums and a final that was the most tweeted event in Twitter’s history (a record 7,196 tweets per second).
But what about England who crashed out on penalties to France? Women’s football is a fast growing sport across the country but is the top tier of the game let down by the powers that be?
This year the FA launched their inaugural Women’s Super League, hoping to give the game a little more glamour and prestige compared to the Women’s Premier League. Whilst the game at grass roots may have been fast developing, the top tier of women’s football in this country was suffering from little media coverage. ESPN pulled out of broadcasting the women’s Premier League Cup final back in March between Nottingham Forest and Barnet at Wycombe Wanderers’ Adams Park due to fears over lack of interest. Back in 2010 Arsenal won their seventh successive Women’s Premier League title. Such an impressive achievement may say good things about the ladies set-up at Arsenal but raises serious questions about the caliber of their competition.
The FA needed to act to reinvigorate the women’s game and fortunately they did. The Women’s Super League consisting of eight teams kicked off in April. Whilst this opening game in the semi-professional league between Arsenal and Chelsea still started off on a relatively small stage (Ryman League Premier Division Tooting & Mitcham’s Imperial Fields) it is a step forward for the women’s game. 2,510 spectators watched the clash and whilst it will be hard to maintain that sort of interest throughout the league, big audiences are one way the women’s game can keep improving. The FA also need to promote the game at larger grounds, whilst Wembley may be a while off the game needs proper exposure on good pitches and within good facilities. Chelsea and Arsenal will compete against Birmingham City, Bristol Academy, Doncaster Belles, Everton, Lincoln and Liverpool. The key fact may be that the FA are pouring money into the scheme. They are investing £3million in the hopes for a competitive league with ESPN broadcasting six live games and a weekly highlights programme.
Bad luck obviously played a major role in England’s exit from the World Cup, with penalties again causing this country more footballing misery (how far England could have gone will never be known, though its hard to think that England beat eventual winners Japan comfortably 2-0 in the group stages). But hopefully the Super League will help the English players become more competitive both domestically and then internationally.
The Women’s Super League returns this week after their World Cup break. Many would have been hoping that the England internationals would have returned to domestic duties with a World Cup winner’s medal but now the FA and the Women’s Super League must still push on and continue to build on the interest in the women’s game.
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