An area of football that has recently been claiming its rightful place in the public eye, women’s football is an incredibly important area in an otherwise male-dominated field that shouldn’t be overlooked. From the first women’s football match in 1895, to the achievements of the present day, this sport has a long and successful history that has been pieced together by many talented female players. With a fantastic reputation and many incredible achievements, England’s women’s national team, the Lionesses, includes a whole host of famous female footballers, all of whom are helping to pave the way and create a more gender-equal sport, including Mille Bright, Beth Mead, Lucy Bronze and more.
In this blog, we’ll aim to shine a light on some key achievements, both past and present, by celebrating the most iconic moments in UK women’s football. Highlighting the best female footballers that have made their mark on the sport, and other landmark events, the blog will provide more visibility and recognition for the women who have made this sport what it is by listing a number of their historical achievements.
A huge victory in the history of football that none of us will ever forget, the Lionesses defeated Germany 2-1 and proudly earned the title of winners of the 2022 Women’s Euro for the first time. With a global audience of over 365 million, as well as 50 million viewers watching England’s win, the tournament smashed records under the management of the new Lionesses coach, appointed in late 2021, Sarina Wiegman.
A historic moment in football, Arsenal player Beth Mead, now known as one of the best female footballers on the team, was named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2022, following the Euro victory. Walking away with the title of Golden Boot player, meaning that she scored the most goals in her team during the tournament (six in total) Mead earned top scorer of the match.
Although not a particular ‘moment,’ the recruitment of the first female coach of the England women’s national team, Hope Powell, in 1998 marked a huge milestone in women’s football. Staying in the role for 15 years and eventually leaving in 2013, Powell broke records as the first non-white coach, as well as being the youngest football coach of any England national team.
While manager of the team, Powell implemented a huge amount of change. When Powell first stepped up to the role, the women’s team was given little recognition compared to their male counterparts, had little support, and, to earn a living, players had no choice but to work full-time alongside their demanding football commitments.
From fighting for improved facilities for the England women’s team and setting up talent camps to recruit more players, to getting players contracts with £16,000 yearly salaries to help them minimise work commitments and become full-time footballers, and hiring more support staff, as well as hitting many more milestones, Powell fought for the women’s team every step of the way. Awarded an OBE in 2002, the former coach remains a notable figure in UK women’s football.
Although many of us remember the 2012 London Olympics for other reasons - including the iconic James Bond and the late Queen Elizabeth II performance - it might come as a shock to some who didn’t watch the Olympics all the way through that it also marked a huge milestone for women’s football.
Being the first time that the Team GB women’s football team could take part in the Olympics, these inspiring female footballers took the stadium by storm. With thousands of spectators overlooking from every angle, pressures were high, but the women’s team stayed confident and focussed. A truly iconic football moment, this achievement was a complete game-changer, helping to give women’s football more recognition, and acting as a motivator to inspire more young women and girls to pursue the sport.
The formation of the WSL (Women’s Super League) in 2011 marked another iconic moment in women’s football. Now known as the Barclays Women’s Super League after the bank jumped on board as a title sponsor in 2019, the WSL is the highest league of women’s football in the country. As one of very few professional women’s leagues globally, the WSL has marked a huge step to gender equality in football. Most of the England women’s team play in the top league, which is labelled as arguably one of the best divisions in the world.
Having turned fully professional at the start of the 2018/2019 season, the league currently features 12 professional teams, which, for the 2022/23 season, include: Chelsea at number one, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, West Ham United, Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Liverpool, Reading, Brighton and Hove, and at number 12, Leicester City Women.
In 2021, a landmark moment finally came: Sky and the BBC both signed an agreement, which lasts for three years, to broadcast the Women’s Super League on TV. Bringing more access to women’s football through the comfort of viewers’ own homes, more people than ever can now watch the league on their screens, attracting a much wider audience to women’s football.
A historic, landmark deal that is believed to be the biggest of its kind in female football, the agreement is hoped to solve previous issues faced, including visibility and investment. Helping to bring more interest in women’s football from both supporters and young or aspiring players, as well as an increased amount of commercial interest from brands, it’s hoped that this will be a big step for the sport.
From the winning goal that meant the women’s England national football team claimed victory in the 2022 Euros, to the game-changing success in the 2012 Olympics, and much more, there have been many iconic moments during the past few decades that have helped to transform the future of women’s football.
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