Interest in women’s football has surged during the Euro 2022 tournament, with consistently high viewing figures. England’s semi-final against Sweden was among the most watched television broadcasts of the year, drawing a peak audience of 9.3 million viewers on BBC One.
Five fans speak about what has drawn them to the tournament this year, and their favourite moments from the matches so far.
‘I looked at my daughter’s face and she was so excited’
I travelled to Brighton last week for the quarter-final between England and Spain with a friend and our 12-year-old daughters. We arrived around 15 minutes prior to kick off and the atmosphere was incredible. This continued throughout the match, even after Spain went ahead.
My highlight was when Georgia Stanway scored the winning goal and the crowd rose as one in appreciation. I remember looking at my daughter’s face and she was so excited. It was like that ball was destined for the back of the net and the crowd just erupted. It was wonderful.
My daughter is a keen player so we spend a lot of time together at her games on weekends. The match we attended has given her increased enthusiasm for the game. Coming out of the ground, we talked about going to WSL [Women’s Super League] games together next season.
I’m a lifelong Leicester City supporter and love watching football, but it’s not something I’ve wanted to take my own family to very often because of the nature of the crowds at the men’s games. So this increased awareness of the women’s game is fantastic for me and my family.
Rob Crowther, 55, school principal, Surrey
My favourite moment was when the players came to the corner after the goal. They were so close to us and it was like we were celebrating with them. It was great to see players this good and it makes me want to try to be as good as them.
Rob’s daughter Mia
‘I was football mad as a teenager, but wasn’t allowed to play’
I was very impressed by the standard of women’s football. Super skills, fitness, tactics and passing. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching football without the hype and the aggression of the Premier League. It’s so refreshing and joyful, a pleasure to watch.
As a teenager, I was a football mad – it was my obsession. But I was at secondary school in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and you just couldn’t do it. I can remember in Year 8 trying to get a girls’ football team together to play at lunchtime. There were a few people who were interested and we got summoned to the deputy head who said there was no way girls were playing football in that school, so forget it.
It was all quite interesting when women’s football started to take off, and now it’s really got momentum and I really hope it goes on. I think it will inspire enthusiasm and also give people a role model. I hope many more girls get on the pitch and enjoy themselves.
Kathryn Streatfield, 67, North Yorkshire, retired
‘My boys were cheering every goal’
The joy of these Euros has been watching the games with my three sons – my twins are eight and my eldest is 12 – and their friends. They have loved every single England game, and the 8-0 Norway game in particular. My three boys were just cheering with every goal, going absolutely nuts for it and saying: we don’t care if it’s men or women playing football, we just care that it’s football, it’s England, and we just want to win.
This is the generation where gay marriage is normal, women playing football is normal – it’s really emotional for me to be watching these things, and they don’t understand that. And that’s OK – they can just enjoy it, that’s the point of getting here. When I was at school, a teacher laughed at me because I wanted to play football with the boys.
As a mother of sons, I almost feel that it’s more important to watch the Euros with them than I would if I had a daughter. It’s just as important that men engage with women’s football as women do.
Sonya Dunn, West Sussex, 42, stay-at-home parent
‘It’s given me a lot of pride in England’
I have felt very inspired by the Euros and, interestingly, it’s given me a lot of pride in England – the team and the country. Although I was born in Birmingham, my family is from Ireland and I never identify as English. I have nothing to relate to that I like, besides Wallace and Gromit. But seeing the grace and success of the Lionesses has changed something.
Before this year, I’d never seen an international game in person. I’ve been to Sheffield to see Netherlands v Sweden and Leigh for Netherlands v Portugal, Sweden v Portugal. I don’t know what it’s like at bigger matches, but they were so well organised. There were so many stewards around and you just felt that you were in a really supportive environment.
Another thing I have noticed this year is the commentary. It’s more equal to the men’s commentary now. It seems to be more serious and focused.
The best moment so far has probably been watching Beth Mead score her hat-trick against Norway. It’s incredible, the way England has played. It was magic how gracefully they scored these goals. And to get that 8-0 result. I was watching in a pub in Sheffield and just laughing. I couldn’t believe it.
Unfortunately, I’ve had a chest infection this last week, but if I’m well enough, I’d like to see the final in the fan zone in Manchester city centre, or one of the pubs. If not, I’m quite happy at home. I’ve got a poster in the front window and a little Euro flag. So it might be me and the cat, Frank. It’s going to be amazing.
Mary Collins, 54, Manchester