The 2017 Women’s Euro Finals will kick off in the Netherlands on 16th July. This year sees the competition grow with 16 teams taking part. Female football has come a long way in the past 10 years. Across Europe there are currently over 1.27 million girls and women registered as regularly playing football, a 6% rise since 2016.
UEFA has a clear aim: to make football the number one women’s sport across Europe. It is a big challenge, but they have a robust plan to deliver it, built around a campaign called ‘Together #WePlayStrong’. It focuses on three key pillars that showcase the best of the game: skill, teamwork and a positive attitude.
There is no denying its growth as a spectator sport too: the UEFA Women’s EURO 2013 Finals had 133 million viewers, with the final alone being watched by 15.9 million viewers – an increase of 59% on the 2009 final.
Despite fantastic weather in the UK over the course of the 2013 finals, ratings consistently outperformed the BBC3 average, with live matches not featuring England averaging 2.47% compared with the channel’s 2.1% prime-time average. The average audience for England’s three games was 870,000 (a 5.5% rating), 68% of the average rating for matches in the FIFA Confederations Cup, also shown on BBC3.
Expectations for viewing figures for the 2017 competition are high, partly reflected in Channel 4 out-bidding the BBC to show all of England and Scotland’s matches, including their opening fixture which sees the two go head to head against each other on 19th July.
England Lionesses performance in the 2015 World Cup, finishing in third place by beating Germany for the first time in 21 games, showed how far women’s football in the UK has come and this is supported in no small part by some very talented England u19 and u17 squads themselves fed with talented players from the 34 Regional Talent Centres (RTCs) across the UK.
With women’s football soon to take centre stage in Netherlands, we took time to catch up with Millwall Lionesses U16’s, on the back of a very successful season to hear what they had to say about developing elite female football players.