With women’s football, it’s all kicking off.
The international women’s football game has also been gaining in popularity and publicity: England Women came third in the 2015 FIFA World Cup tournament and were semi-finalists in 2017’s UEFA Women’s Euro, which was viewed by about 4 million people in the UK. Over the past few years, the women’s game has been growing at an exponential rate and many of the best-known English sides now have professional women’s teams too.
The FA Women’s Super League or FAWSL kicks off 22-24 September.
Meeting professional footballer Steph Houghton
Captaining the teams at both tournaments was Steph Houghton who also leads out the highly-rated Manchester City WFC. Steph’s career trajectory almost exactly matches the rise in the women’s sport: now 29, she was spotted as a young girl and started playing for her local club, Sunderland’s, women’s side when she was just 14 “for pure enjoyment”. For several years she juggled studies and part-time work with her training and fixtures timetable because opportunities to earn a living in the women’s game were so rare. “It was only moving to Manchester City four years ago,” she tells BritMums (she had previously been at Leeds and Arsenal) “when I finally felt that I didn’t have to do anything else, I could just concentrate on my football.”
Inspiring girls into football
It is an inspiring story (and very sweetly told in an animation on YouTube that she narrates – part of a series about England Women’s footballers): the girl who used to beat her brother and his friends on the school football pitch and went on to captain her national squad. Now, partly thanks to her example, when she asks young girls at schools and football academies what they want to do, “They say they want to be a football player rather than just a PE teacher or whatever”.
Since moving to Man City, Steph has been introduced to a world of state-of-the-art facilities and an army of coaches, nutritionists and physios that are normally the preserve of the male players.
A great experience for fans & families
Despite the management and training that the women’s side benefits from, Steph believes that the relatively low profile of the women’s game compared to the men’s, means that spectators and supporters get a much more personal experience when they come to watch her.
We’re a lot more accessible than the boys are, there are lots of opportunities for signing autographs and doing photos that you might not get with the men’s game.
“It’s great that people watch us on television but I’d really encourage people to see us live. Every single year we’ve really raised the standard of the game. You can bring your girls to watch us and be inspired by how we play,” she says. “We’re also a lot more accessible than the boys are, there are lots of opportunities for signing autographs and doing photos that you might not get with the men’s game.”
Great sport at an affordable price
It has to be said that the prices are also a lot more manageable: a ticket to a MCWFC game, for example, is just £6. So go and join the growing band of women’s football supporters – you never know, you could be looking at England’s only chance of lifting a football World Cup!
For more information on the Women’s Super League, visit fawsl.com.
This is a sponsored post, paid for by the Football Association