Why the England women’s football team scored in 2015

Archie Bland, writing for the Guardian, discusses the upturn in popularity for the England Women’s Team and whether women’s football as a whole has improved.

When did everything change for women’s football in England? You might say it was when the national team reached the last four of the World Cup in Canada, or played heroically in a semi-final defeat to Japan. Or you might say it was when Fara Williams’ nerveless extra-time penalty against Germany secured the third-place finish that the team’s performances deserved.

By another way of thinking, though, the real changes materialised when they got home. When fans waited at Heathrow to greet them; when average attendances at the following Women’s Super League (WSL) fixtures more than doubled; whenLucy Bronze was nominated for Sports Personality of the Year. The game looks different now.

Mind you, there’s a lot that hasn’t changed. “I still don’t feel one bit famous,” says Williams, pouring a bucket of cold water on my fantasies of Beckham-esque recognition. “It’s all pretty normal, really. But that’s good, it means we have time to engage with the supporters. That’s how we grab a young fanbase.”

Still, as the FA tries to build on the summer’s momentum, some of the problems that money brings with it are coming to the WSL. The Doncaster Rovers Belles manager, Glen Harris, warned recently that agent-inflated transfer deals could make the competition “implode”. But Williams is confident that the players know how to deal with the way the game is changing. “Our contracts aren’t like the men’s,” she points out.

“They’re one-year deals, and you know, if you don’t work hard, you could be offloaded. Yes, now there are fees for the first time, and some clubs will give bigger contracts. But I don’t think you’ll come across a female footballer who isn’t grounded.”

Williams certainly isn’t losing her head. Wasn’t she a bit excited about the Spoty nominations, I wonder, hoping she might pop up herself, after her fine all-round performances and three vital goals from the spot? “Nah,” she says, amused. “Lucy scored some crucial goals, so she totally deserves it. Mine were a bit easier, weren’t they, being penalties?” It’s not something you’ve often heard fromEngland players after major tournaments in the past. But the future, at least in this half of the game, looks rather brighter.

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