For many, the team’s success was a long overdue moment of glory that lifted the sport itself and inspired a new generation of girls to take up the game.
It is easy to see why the FA’s decision to put tickets on sale for the England women’s football friendly against the USA so soon after the Lionesses’ triumph at the European Championships would be met with such enthusiasm.
However, while there is no doubt that England’s victory has created a huge amount of interest in women’s football, it is important to remember that elite success does not always benefit the sport at a lower level.
For example, although England won the World Cup in 1966, the number of people playing football at the grassroots level declined in the years that followed.
Part of this is that while interest in the sport might spike after a major tournament victory, it is often short-lived and does not always lead to sustained growth.
In addition, many of the girls inspired by the Lionesses’ success are likely to come from relatively affluent backgrounds and have access to resources that other girls do not.
This means that, unless there is a concerted effort to make the game more accessible to all, the benefits of England’s victory could be felt mostly by those already privileged.
Ultimately, suppose women’s football is to benefit from the Lionesses’ success truly. In that case, the momentum generated by their victory must be used to effect lasting change at all game levels.
In addition, while the FA’s decision to put tickets on sale for the England women’s football friendly against the USA so soon after the Lionesses’ triumph at the European Championships is to be welcomed, it is also important to remember that elite success does not always benefit the sport at a lower level.
As the tenth anniversary of the London Olympics approaches, it is important to reflect on how the games impacted not just elite athletes but also grassroots sports participation. It is clear that while the Olympics provide a moment of glory and celebration for many, the effects on long-term participation are often more muted. This is partly because the benefits of elite success are often felt by those already privileged.
Looking ahead, the momentum generated by the Lionesses’ victory must be used to effect lasting change at all levels of the game to ensure that women’s football can truly benefit from their success.
Only then will we see a real transformation in how women’s football is viewed and supported in this country.
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