7 Ways To Keep The Ball Rolling On Women's Football Beyond WWC 2019
Emma Townley is head of editorial for This Fan Girl, a community platform dedicated to female football fans, to give them a space to support the beautiful game together.
So it’s been a whole month since we saw the United States women's national soccer team play a decisive finale and lift the trophy for the fourth time. What a tournament it was, with a record-breaking 28.1 million people tuning into the BBC’s coverage of the final, and with thousands more making the pilgrimage to Paris, nobody could refute that the love for the women’s game is now massive. The World Cup did wonders to change the perception of the Women’s game for the better and, as fans, we have so much to look forward to in the future, with a new season full of promise on the horizon.
England’s semi final against Norway netted a record viewing figure of 7.6 million. That’s enough people chanting "it’s coming home" to drown out the cries of "nobody cares about women’s football" from trolls. The next time we’ll see the Lionesses play in a tournament will be the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which seems far away. But don’t worry — we’ve got some ways you can be proactive to fill the World Cup void in the meantime.
Here are seven ways you can keep following female footy now the World Cup hype has died down:
1. Join a local team
Up and down the UK, there are loads of amazing girl's and women’s teams popping up. If you’re London based then check out the Super 5s league based in East London. Or there’s Goaldiggers F.C, Sisterhood F.C or Sirens F.C — all of these teams take girls at all skill levels. So whether you’re a beginner or looking to dust off your boots and get back into it, there’s something for everyone. The FA have a page on their site that they regularly update with upcoming playing opportunities for women looking to play. In Bristol, there’s Banana F.C, while Aggregate F.C play every Wednesday in Liverpool, and Street Soccer Scotland have a women’s team in Edinburgh.
2. If playing isn’t for you, find a football community
If playing isn’t for you, then supporting definitely could be. Dig out your footy shirts and head down the pub to watch a match and make some new friends. Change the channel is compiling a list of pubs who are going to continue showing women’s matches in the coming season and the BBC has made a big commitment to showing games in the new season. Their new footy hub has all the info you need on league tables and goals scored. There are also community-led platforms that represent female-first but not female-only fans; communities like ours (This Fan Girl). We hold meet-ups and bring fans together to enjoy the beautiful game.
3. Go to local matches
If you like going to the pub to watch matches why not take it a step further and go to some local women’s games? Getting involved with grassroots games can be a great introduction. Tickets are cheaper than going to a music gig or out a fancy dinner, and it can be a great way to spend an afternoon — especially if the weather is good. Dulwich Hamlet now have a ladies team who are full of promise and more than ready for the new season. I’d also recommend checking out Hackney Women’s F.C (who are also looking for players if you fancied). But if you want to go see the pros in action, then catching Chelsea Women’s, Manchester City, or Arsenal W.F.C will be money well spent. All teams have a few familiar favourites from the World Cup in their squads too.
4. Choose a club
A great way to get involved if joining a club, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the mirror of whichever men’s team you support. Now’s the chance to mix it up. The FA Women's Super League (FAWSL) starts on the 18 August 2019, followed by a tasty Manchester Derby on 7 September, and a clash for London’s Chelsea and Tottenham on the 8 Sept. Following in the footsteps of European clubs such as Atletico Madrid, who welcomed 60,739 fans for the visit of Barcelona for the first time in both clubs' histories, the opening games will be played at the men’s grounds. Not only is this a massive statement of support from the FA and the clubs themselves, but it provides an opportunity to proliferate the audience and fan base. With so much to look forward to this season, it’s hard to know where to start. Luckily, the FA have you covered, with full listings of matches here.
5. Read up
There’s a wealth of football publications both online and off that are at the forefront of changing perceptions around women in football. Maybe you want to find out about where fashion and football crossover? Or see strong women in sport portrayed in the media? Or maybe you just want to keep up to date with all the news and gossip from the FAWSL? If you’re looking for something to read with your morning cuppa or on the night bus home, head to grassroots platforms such as This Fan GirlSloweGirl fanzine, Season, She’s A Baller, or Studs and support their content, which is working to create an equal and more representative picture of female fans and athletes.
6. Support players on social media/online
Continuity is key with making real change in women’s football. We have to keep telling our stories and supporting the stories of those women who play at a professional level because that will filter down to the next generation of female players, and the next generation of fans. The World Cup marked a turning point in the popularity of women’s football. It was the first time that women’s football was this visible — it was on our tellies, in our magazines, the faces of our Lionesses were even splashed on packaging in our local supermarkets. Now the World Cup fever has passed, we need to keep this visibility up. Look out for matches streamed online, articles written by female footballers, follow your team or favourite players' social profiles, and keep your eyes peeled for whatever football initiative you feel you could help out with. Being proactive is the key.
7. Support the next generation
There’s been a great amount of progress with the current game in terms of visibility and accessibility, but what about the future for the next generation of players? There's an undeniable link between playing team sports and learning social skills, and a charity that knows this better than anyone is Football Beyond Borders. Based in South London, their work focuses on supporting young people and helping them to build confidence and life skills by using football as a tool of engagement. Street soccer Scotland are another charity who are tackling poverty and poor mental health head-on. They provide stability, support and rehabilitation, using football as a way to give young people purpose. Organisations like these need public support to continue doing the incredible work they do for young people. Consider volunteering, fundraising, or simply follow their journeys online.
This year’s World Cup highlighted just how popular women’s football can be if it’s given the platforms it deserves. It’s an incredibly exciting time to get involved with the women’s game, and it continues to go from strength to strength. But, to paraphrase one of our World Cup heroes Marta, it needs your support. We hope you’ve been inspired by this piece to get involved in the women’s game. If you want more information, join our This Fan Girl football chat forum on Facebook, for daily conversations surrounding the game.