Hannah Dingley, Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching and Performance
Last night Great Britain women’s football team beat Brazil 1-0 in front of 70,584 spectators at Wembley.
This was not only a landmark achievement on the pitch but also off it. The game marked the highest ever attendance for a women’s match in the UK.
Alarmingly the last time a game attracted a crowd near this figure was in 1920 when 53,000 watched Dick Kerr's Ladies FC take on St Helens Ladies at Everton’s Goodison Park.
Only a year later the FA banned women from playing on Football League grounds stating that “…the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged."
This ban was in place for 50 years and it was only in 1993 that the Football Association fully acknowledged the women's game and became its governing body.
In a view to promoting the women’s game, in 2011 the FA introduced the Women’s Super League. This is a semi-professional league played in the summer months aimed to increase the quality of football and spectator interest, including a television deal with ESPN.
Although some games have attracted crowds of over 2,500 the average attendance is still only around 600. It is also frustrating that some attitudes do not seemed to have changed much since those of the FA in the 1920s.
I have a personal interest in the team’s performance as I coach the central defensive pairing of Casey Stoney and Sophie Bradley at Lincoln Ladies and indeed Casey is not only her club captain but also captain of team GB.
Therefore I have witnessed first-hand what committed and dedicated athletes these girls are.
So let’s get behind the girls for their quarter final on Friday night and hope these games really do leave a legacy for the image of women’s football!