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Thinking out loud with Tamsin Ward | The Impact Of England’s Win

Thinking out loud with Tamsin Ward | No more years of hurt, just healing and growth, Head of Brand & Marketing: Insights from the Shine Team

England finally beat Germany in the final of a major international football tournament. The first time since the 1966 World Cup, and oh does it feel good.

It feels good because 1966 was also the major turning point that saw women legally being allowed to play football, following a ban by the FA in 1921. So, the significance of this win for the England Women’s team is huge.

At the start of the last century, women’s football had started to pick up momentum. By 1920, England’s leading women’s team, Dick, Kerr Ladies, was at the forefront and playing international fixtures. On Boxing Day that year, they played their rivals St. Helen’s, and 53,000 fans entered the ground to watch. An estimated 15,000 were turned away on top of that, and this set an attendance record that was only beaten 92 years later when the men’s Team GB beat Brazil at Wembley during the London 2012 Olympics. 

It was also record-breaking at the time for the amount of money it raised for charity, with all ticket sales going towards helping the unemployed and disabled ex-service men. This was unusual in that it didn’t go to the FA and other areas of the establishment. 

Then, only a few months later, the FA decided to ban women’s football. It was impossible to do this completely, so they declared that women’s football could not be played in any grounds affiliated by the FA – so all major premises. This squashed the size of the game’s following overnight. The reason given at the time was that the sport was “quite unsuitable for females” and that “complaints had been made” about the ways in which the ticket sales were processed.

The ban was only removed 51 years later after the Men’s England team lifted the trophy at the World Cup, awareness was raised, and a number of women’s teams rose up to fight the rules.

But why does this matter?

Everything we believe in at Shine comes down to the fact that when women thrive, men thrive and business thrives (and most importantly, the wider world). Whether you follow women’s or men’s football, or even sport at all, what happened yesterday at Wembley is symbolic for gender equality and will accelerate progress.

According to the global sports management consultancy Portas, female participation in football around the world contributes £2.6bn to the world’s economy. But if women’s participation equalled that of men’s (39%), an additional £5.2bn of value would be generated.

It’s estimated that off the back of the Euros the sponsorship of the women’s game will explode. Currently, the England Women’s Superleague (WSL) has a deal with Sky with £8m. To put this into perspective, the Premier League’s global media rights are worth £10bn a year. Lucy Bronze is the team’s highest earner and is on £200k a year, whereas Cristiano Ronaldo earns £26m a year at Manchester United. Last night ex-England player and TV Sport Broadcaster Alex Scott called out the missed opportunity brands will face by not supporting the game earlier. “I had a conversation yesterday. I’m not standing up at corporate events in front of sponsors anymore begging for them to get involved in the women’s game because you know what? If you’re not involved, you’ve missed the boat, you’ve missed the train. Because look at this… it has finally left the station and it is gathering speed.”

The act of sponsorship is also shining a spotlight on the companies involved. Six of the main sponsors of the Women’s Euros have had their UK gender pay gaps highlighted in an outdoor campaign in two of the main host cities, to show it’s one thing to align your brand with the game, and another to address inequalities within your own organisation. (We must point out that Shine is working with at least one of these companies to empower their mid-senior level women – so action is being taken!)

Success hasn‘t just happened overnight. It has taken years of time and (limited) investment to develop the female talent needed to reach the top. In 2021, 100 years after they placed the ban, the FA committed to feed the pipeline with future players, with 2024 targets including:

It’s not just women and girls that have been following the tournament (although it made our hearts sing to hear the screams and cheers of little girls in the crowds). It’s estimated that 17.4m people watched the final, and there were 5.9 million streams on the BBC Sport website and app. Men are changing their opinions on women’s place on the pitch. The BBC spoke to Tim Williamson, 67 and an Arsenal fan from London, who admits he never took women’s football seriously until now. “To my wife’s anger I found myself screaming and swearing at the set just like I do when Arsenal are playing. I’d say about half of my male mates that are in to football are suddenly talking about the women’s game. They even know the names of the players!” 

Inevitably demand and a newfound love for women’s football seen by women and men alike, will now see the level of investment and support for the sport increase, which can only have a positive impact on the opportunities for girls and women to fulfil their ambitions and talents, as well as on the wider economy. A win all round!

Share this article with your colleagues and the people around you and encourage a healthy discussion. And for anything else, follow us on social media or get in touch via email but remember when women thrive, men thrive, business thrives.  

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