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Reasons for the popularity of women’s football

Women’s football had several opportunities to rise to a high level. However, there was a condescending attitude toward women’s soccer for a long time. Fortunately, it’s different now.

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History of the beginnings of women’s football

During World War I, while men were at the front, women worked in factories and plants. In Preston, at the Dick, Kerr & Co. factory, women worked in the production of streetcars and locomotives. From time to time, during their lunch breaks, women workers were allowed to play with a ball. PE breaks were held in many factories, but the Preston ladies played particularly powerfully.

Soon Dick & Kerr began to hold friendly matches against factories from other districts and cities. All proceeds from the games went to the injured military at the front.

At the peak of popularity, football players gathered at the matches to 50 thousand fans and played against the French team. But the war was over, the English Football Association wanted to establish itself, and women’s football seriously threatened the popularity of men. The verdict was very harsh: on December 5, 1921, officials banned ladies from playing ball for exactly 50 years:

“The Council considers it its duty to express its firm opinion that the football game is wholly unsuitable for women and should not be encouraged. We also believe that expenses absorb a disproportionate percentage of match income, and an inadequately small percentage is given to charitable purposes. Therefore, the Council asks the clubs belonging to the association to refuse to use their grounds for such matches.”


1971: Unofficial World Cup in Mexico

A year after the men’s World Cup 1970 in Mexico, Beer, wine, tea, and other companies wanted to advertise again in the more than 100,000-strong Azteca Stadium. The Martini & Rossi brand paid for flights and hotel stays for six women’s teams: England, France, Italy, Denmark, Argentina, and Mexico. There was a fee to enter the matches, and the mini World Cup even had its own mascot.

In late August-early September, 10 group stage games were played, and a playoff was held. The final game was a historic and record-breaking attendance game. At Aztec, 110,000 people watched the match between Mexico and Denmark. True, the tournament had no impact on the global development of women’s football. There was no qualitative leap forward in Mexico because of the players’ constant conflicts with the national federation (the officials publicly disapproved of the championship itself). Moreover, outside the country – because of the lack of media coverage: in comparison with the men’s World Cup, the women’s one in Europe has remained unnoticed.


1999: Great World Cup in the United States

The most successful women’s World Cup ever. The tournament came to the US for the first time – it was a breakthrough. Four years before the US World Cup, the game was held in Sweden; it turned out badly. Matches were played in five stadiums, three of which didn’t even reach 10,000. Nigeria and Canada drew only 250 spectators, with an average attendance of 4,300.

The American Cup organizers were bolder: four arenas had a capacity of more than 70,000, two more were over 50,000, and the others were 20,000 and 31,000. On average, 37,000 fans came to each game (over 50,000 for the US games), a record that still stands. Over 90,000 people showed up for the U.S.-China final. A photo of exultant Brandi Chastain (the USA won on penalties) went around the world.


What has changed since then?

First, the money.

– In Denmark, Norway, and New Zealand, players on the women’s and men’s national teams already receive the same bonus, with several more countries on the way;

– The prize fund of the World Cup has doubled even in comparison with the last tournament: now the winner will receive not 2 but 4 million dollars, and all teams in the sum – 30 million instead of 15;

– The English Super League (with Arsenal and Manchester City in the lead) signed a record sponsorship contract with Barclays for 10 million pounds at the end of March. On the European stage, the achievements of British teams are far removed from those of their German and French neighbours. But Her Majesty’s men have reached the semi-finals eight times in the last nine seasons of the Women’s World Cup. With such financial injections in the coming years, the clubs from the Foggy Albion are likely to become many times more successful.

Second, attendance.

All past attendance bursts were, as a rule, ad hoc. Now everything is different: the number of spectators at matches has increased over the past two years.

Just ten years ago, a thousand and a half fans at the matches of the Dutch team went, but for almost two years now, attendance has not dropped below 20 thousand. The catalyst was the success of Euro 2017;

The Mexican finals regularly draw 40,000-50,000 fans. The same situation applies to the FA Cup final.

Third, uniforms.

One of the most important ways to increase the appeal of women’s football. We have said goodbye to baggy shirts. Shorts are now shorter, and the upper part considers the peculiarities of the structure of the female body. We have lived up to the moment when Nike specially designed uniforms for each country participating in the World Cup 2019. It happened for the first time in the history of women’s football.


What’s the reason for the change?


In 2017, UEFA launched a social media campaign called WePlayStrong (back then, fans from 16 participating countries helped cover the Women’s EURO, encouraging users to be active). Now FIFA is more closely involved in the media coverage of female players.

The major media outlets are not far behind: the BBC, Fox Sports, and The Guardian regularly produce impressive columns about news from the world of women’s football. Even football’s Bleacher Report, with one million followers, consistently posts interesting stories about girls. After the record attendance of the women’s match in Madrid, the Spanish Marca and AS came out with the football players on the covers. Women’s football is slowly becoming fashionable!


The notion that women’s and men’s teams should receive equal bonuses (given their different levels of popularity) is not easy to accept, even for me (although I also help UEFA to develop women’s football). But in some respects, equality is a must, and the struggles that feminists wage help women’s football.

So about a year ago, on International Women’s Day, the famous ELLE magazine presented to its impressive audience a large-scale material with many stories: about discrimination of a 14-year-old Brazilian girl who made it as a boy’s team to the states championship, about Marta’s uneasy way to the status of the best football player in the world, about how difficult it is to be an athlete in Africa, about how she escaped from Afghanistan and won silver in EURO after losing her father to Taliban hands.

In South Korea, about which we talked a lot just the other day, the first match of the men’s team was played a month after the Republic declared independence. The women’s national team’s debut game was only 42 years later.

Women should be looked at the same way as men in sports. The most challenging situation is in the Middle East and Central Asia. But the problem is changing there as well.


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Explanation: player statistics (a/b c)

a - games played this season

b - goals scored

c - team position (d - defender, m - midfielder, f - forward, g - goalkeeper).

July 28, 2022 at 11:53 am