The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 ended in heartbreak for England, losing a highly competitive final to Spain, who to their credit, very worthy winners.
We are incredibly proud of the Lionesses, who throughout the tournament displayed world class performances, gritty determination, and a bond with one another that any team would envy.
Whilst the result was painful for so many, it’s clear that this World Cup meant so much more than the wins and losses.
As the dust begins to settle, London Sport’s very own Community Sport Manager, Ali Speechly, who is also a UEFA B licenced football coach with 8 years’ experience working in grassroots and academy football, reflects on another fantastic tournament:
The Lionesses sadly won’t be returning with a trophy as they travel back after the World Cup, but what will be coming home is a team that has once again inspired a nation, and the next generation of football players.
Since their success at last year’s UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, the England women’s football team have spearheaded a boost in participation, from girls in primary schools to women in parks, up and down the country, as well as more women feeling empowered to take up football coaching. And it’s not only women and girls who have caught ‘Lioness Fever’; at my local train station on Saturday, I overheard a group of young men passionately debating who should start for England in the World Cup Final the following day – and just a glance at social media proved that many men and boys were enjoying the tournament just as much as women and girls. I cannot express the pride this fills me with having been involved in football for so many years.
However, there is still work to be done. Despite the global success of women in elite sport, gender stereotypes prevail and continue to have a detrimental impact on grassroots participation. Many women feel uncomfortable in such male-dominated environments, whether that’s playing, coaching or watching as a fan. This needs to change on all levels, particularly if young girls are feeling inspired to be the next Lauren James. They need the right environment to get involved. This underlines the importance of projects like our Space for Girls project, which works to create safe, welcoming hubs in
key London communities for women and girls to be physically active.
The benefits across the board provide a clear justification for increased investment into the women’s game. It’s promising to see nations understanding this, including continued investment from Sport England to support the women’s game at home, as well as in Australia where the government announced $200m to improve women’s sporting facilities and equipment. I was also excited to see the findings of Karen Carney’s Independent Review, which states that women’s football could be a billion-pound industry within 10 years if it gets the right investment now.
In turn, increased investment globally will continue to grow its profile. In the UK, we were fortunate to be able to watch every single game of this World Cup on TV, but globally many nations only secured broadcasting rights on the first day of the tournament, and some didn’t screen it at all. We know the power of visibility – especially for underrepresented groups. If we can see it, we can be it. My hope is that in the future there will be no debate about whether to broadcast a major sporting event, regardless of who is participating.
To end on a high note, my favourite part about this tournament, and sport in general, is how it brings communities together. We were all united yesterday, cheering England to glory. I was fortunate enough to attend a watch party that sold out within two minutes of tickets going on sale once the Lionesses had secured their place in the final. Sadly, the outcome of the match wasn’t the one we’d hoped for, but the party carried on regardless because, sometimes, the real victory is in the friends and memories we make along the way.
The continued success of the England Women’s National Team has turned them into household names, and it continues to grow the profile of and exposure to the Women’s game. We hope that this tournament, and the tournaments to come, will build a foundation for the next generation and inspire women and young girls to be more active.
We encourage any providers running sessions in the community to upload these to upload their sessions on OpenSessions so these can be found on activity finders such as Get Active, our digital behaviour change programme designed to support less active Londoners to find and attend local activity sessions.
London Sport is a charity that exists to help all Londoners live longer, healthier and happier lives through being active. Our focus is on children and adults in the most deprived communities who face the greatest challenges of inequality.
With physical inactivity responsible for 1 in 6 premature deaths, we want to help every Londoner find their way to move more. Supported by Sport England and the Mayor of London, we collaborate with London’s local authorities and other organisations to provide better access to sport and physical activity across the capital.
For more information on London Sport, visit www.londonsport.org