As the Lionesses make the Euro semi-finals, there’s tonnes to celebrate in women’s football

The team’s success shows that many issues they earlier faced stemmed from a lack of respect for the women’s game

Women’s tennis, Formula 1 and sports across the board and going from strength to strength

It is now just over 50 years after the Football Association lifted its absurd ban on women playing football on FA grounds – between 1921 and 1971 – the game’s resurgence is well under way. WSL and the England team draw in record crowds and sponsorships.

The Women’s Euros and World Cup have finally been granted listed event status, and a welcome announcement from UEFA and the FA on prize money will bring some parity to the men’s game.

Women’s tennis, Formula 1 and sports across the board are going from strength to strength. Amid the excitement, this is a key moment to capitalise on the momentum behind women’s football, and ensure that young girls who are inspired to pick up a ball today can be the next Lionesses.

In the vacuum left by the government on school sports, there’s some great work going on to open opportunities for girls to access football in schools. But despite the push, they still trail well behind boys in participation. When girls are talented, there isn’t the same infrastructure of academies and scholarships to boost them into the top-flight.

Many of these issues stem from a deeper problem with respect for the women’s game, which too often is seen as secondary to the men’s game.

There have already been rumblings during the Euros about the size of stadiums, with some players saying it’s embarrassing to play an international tournament at the men’s training grounds. Given all England’s group stages and the final have already sold out, there would have been scope for more ambition in the planning of the tournament.

At the club level, women’s success at lower levels has been hampered by financial insecurity. Clapton FC having to crowdfund their travel to their historic game against Plymouth Argyle shows the continuing gap in investment down the leagues. Hopefully the increase in FA Cup prize money will go some way towards changing the experience of lower league teams.

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These problems go beyond football. From restrictions against women in cricket, to strict dress codes at Wimbledon causing women unnecessary anxiety, women are too often not considered or ignored when they do raise issues.

Nobody is saying we want a carbon copy of the men’s game. Huge investment and global success combined with unregulated ownership and financial rules have led men’s football to develop unsustainable business models, and taken many clubs away from their fans.

The government promised a specific review of women’s football, which it should get on with quickly. The fan-led review into the men’s game has already been kicked into the long grass, we cannot let the women’s review drag on too.

The government should make sure that grassroots football, proper support for talent pathways, and respect for the game across the leagues are front and centre of the review. And it needs to include the voices of fans who make the game what it is, and who are hopefully going to have a great summer watching the Lionesses’ success.

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