The pro players aren’t the only one benefitting from the success of the women’s Euros. 

Tonight, England are taking on Sweden in the semi-final of the women’s Euros. But you probably knew that, because all of us have our eyes glued to our screens as the Lionesses have powered through the competition.

Tuning in and cheering on doesn’t only benefit the women on the pitch, though. While this is a groundbreaking time for sporting equality among the pros, the impact is also being felt by the grassroots players who compete in the amateur leagues and the fans who cheer them on. 

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That’s huge for people like Morgan Brennan, founder of the Victoria Park Vixens and head of football channel Indivisa. “As someone who runs a grassroots team, I still worry about the practicalities of playing football. But being at a sold-out Old Trafford for the opening match with my whole team, in such an iconic stadium with so much history, felt like a huge signal of how far the game has come,” she says.

“We need to maintain this amazing and inspiring moment in the sport for as long as we can. The impact is being felt, and we don’t want it to end.”

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Pitch space

Access to pitches is a huge issue for women’s teams, often because “a lot of men’s clubs have block bookings – they have been around for a long time and have enough money in their teams to often pay for two years of pitch space,” says Morgan. That means newly formed women’s teams don’t have the ground space to establish themselves. 

“We also have unique challenges in that we need different changing facilities to men. We also need the spaces to be safely lit from the pitch to the station so we can get home, and playing late at night when the pitches are available isn’t really an option for many women – especially in central London,” says Brennan. 

Morgan Brennan, founder of Victoria Park Vixens, says all women will benefit from the success of the Euros

While the Euros being on TV isn’t fixing all of this, it’s certainly helping raise awareness of the problem. “Adidas has launched a campaign to invest in spaces in east London to give pitches over to grassroots teams, which is amazing. That exposure definitely helps but there’s still a lot that we need to change in the long term,” Brennan says.

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Funding

Women’s football needs more money – there is no doubt about that. The huge gender investment gap seems to be changing (albeit slowly) as Uefa doubled the prize fund for this tournament (from £6.86 million to nearly £14 million). And that’s trickling down as bigger audiences mean more commercial interest in the sport – in fact, Brennan says she has already had more interest from brands wanting to partner with her and her team. 

The pro players have had their prize money doubled for the Euros

Keeping that up is the challenge: “There’s no reason why brands should only get involved when it’s the Euros – everything in women’s football is amazing and worth shouting about,” says Brennan. “It’s really important that people stay engaged and keep going to women’s matches, and not just waiting for the next Euros or World Cup.”

Players

“We’ve definitely had a spike in the number of people wanting to join the club and I think that will carry on after the tournament into the Women’s World Cup next year (after the World Cup in 2019 we saw a huge influx of people signing up for many months),” says Brennan.

Unfortunately, small grassroots teams don’t often have the capacity for this demand. “We do have to turn down the people we can’t support and we will try and divert people to other clubs that do have space. It is hard because we want to get as big as we can, but there’s only so much space and so much money.” 

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Fans

Looking at the crowds at these football matches feels refreshing. “For the first time ever, a lot of men in my circle – whether family, friends or colleagues – seem to be really supporting women’s football,” says Brennan. “Even my grandad now texts me after a match with all of his favourite bits.”

Again, having big audiences to prove demand for the sport is there is crucial to get more investment and simply be taken seriously. “It’s kind of bittersweet, because where have they been all this time? But seeing them engage with players and scramble to book tickets is great because we need everyone to support us to help us grow,” says Brennan.

Bigger audiences at the women’s Euros has a huge impact on the sport

Female gaze

There’s no denying that social media and growing demands for more women to be pundits have allowed women to take charge of their own narratives. No longer is the assumption that women aren’t as good as men because women can empower each other with the content we put out. 

Brennan knows this only too well: “I run Indivisa, a women’s football channel that runs across Instagram, Tik Tok and Twitter. A huge part of that is that it’s community focused – we want to give them the content they get excited about. We’ve definitely had an increase in followers during the games and had some players interacting with our posts and our content and it’s great to see that the players really appreciate it as well.” When the conversations around sport become inclusive, we all win. 

Images: Indivisa/Getty

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