Women’s football is in danger of losing much of the momentum it has built up amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to broadcaster Jules Breach and former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis.
With the Premier League on course to resume next month after teams were allowed to engage in full-contact training, the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship seasons were ended with immediate effect on Monday.
Speaking exclusively to TEAMtalk, Football Ramble podcast host and BT Sport presenter Breach suggested the women’s game appears to have slipped down the pecking order of priorities for the game’s authorities, as they look to bring plot a route to get matches back on the agenda after the Covid-19 shut down in mid-March.
“The women’s game almost feels like it has been forgotten when we are talking about football coming back and that’s a shame,” stated Breach, who believes she was struck down by what she describes as a ‘bad dose’ of Covid-19 in March.
“Since the women’s World Cup last year, it has been amazing to see how much the women’s game has grown, but this feels like it has put a bit of a dent in it and the momentum has been lost.
“Hopefully when football resumes and the women’s matches get back, the interest that was really building will still be there.”
Former England goalkeeper Brown-Finnis suggests while improvements have been made in promoting the women’s game in the last few years, more still needs to be done.
Brown-Finnis, who played 82 times for England and once for Great Britain, spoke about the low attendances that are still present at some Women’s Super League games despite a crowd of over 77,000 for the Lionesses game against Germany at Wembley.
“It is an ever-present frustration for the domestic game that we are still getting low attendances for a lot of the WSL games each weekend,” Brown-Finnis told TEAMtalk. “You come from being in the World Cup semi-final and knowing how many people have watched it on the TV and you walk away from that and you play your first league game and the crowd is so small, it is difficult.
“We have had some big success this season, with the Manchester derby game drawing 31,000 and we have also seen big crowds at Chelsea and Tottenham when matches have been played at the club’s main stadium, but we need to get those crowds going consistently to watch women’s football.
“We have had some giant leaps in recent years and seeing a crowd of more than 77,000 at Wembley for a women’s game was incredible, but there is still a long way to go before women’s football is something people look for and go to watch on a regular basis.
“We want to get people to a women’s football match because it is a very family-friendly environment around at the grounds and everyone who goes to games seems to enjoy the experience. We need to expand the fanbase for women’s football and have already made a very good starting point on that in the last few years.
“The more it becomes the norm to watch a women’s game and then support the men’s team in the same way when they play, the better it will be for our sport and hopefully we will see those attendances rising and more women and young girls playing football.”
The debate over what happens next for the men’s game in England has ensured Breach had had plenty to discuss on the popular Football Ramble podcast and she admits she is torn on what needs to happen next for the
“Even though there is no live sport at the moment, coronavirus is impacting everything in our lives. How sport comes back, the debate around that is such an interesting talking point and it means that the Football Ramble show has been just as interesting to do in this period than it is when the matches are on,” she added.
“The way we record the podcast has changed and we started to do that before the official UK government lockdown came in and we have got used to recording from home and we can make it sound just as good as it is when we are in the studio.
“It feels even more important than ever now to do podcasts and give football fans something to hang onto as we are all missing the sport so much.
“Ask me one week what I think about football coming back and it will change the next week. The circumstances are changing so quickly and from my perspective, I just want the Premier League and Football League season is finished so we can saw who deserves to be champions, who has earned the right to go up and who will be relegated.
“Once this season is finished, next season can be amended or shortened as needed, but I feel like we need to prioritise making sure this campaign gets finished.”
*Additional reporting by Matt Johnson