When Chloe Morgan isn’t defending her clients as a medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, she’s defending her goal for Crystal Palace FC.
Through podcasts and social platforms, Chloe has spoken powerfully and positively about the Lionesses over the past month.
We asked the former WSL player for her views on how the success of Euro 2022 can be the springboard for women’s football to go mainstream.
Brilliant Beth Mead, terrific Ella Toone and superb Chloe Kelly ensured women’s sport – and women’s football in particular – has enjoyed a golden moment this summer.
From a sold-out Old Trafford for the opening fixture to a record-breaking attendance (for both the men’s and women’s Euros) for a final, uptake on tickets has been refreshingly higher anyone could’ve anticipated. Games at Bramall Lane raised the bar for non-England matches, setting a new benchmark for attendances, and over 17 million tuned in from home, pubs and fan parks to see the Lionesses lift the trophy. This is all a far cry from seeing 20 people turn up to watch me play in goal for Spurs only a couple of years ago.
It’s been incredible to see the game grow so rapidly and I’m proud to have played a small part in it – but there’s still plenty more to do.
Growing The Game
The immediate impact of the tournament is clear. There’s a connection between the population and this national side. As of the beginning of August – around 48 hours after their win – the Lionesses had sold more than 65,000 tickets for their October friendly against the USA. While that’s all well and good, perhaps the most pleasing thing to see is how it’s already inspired the younger generation. There’s already been a 50% rise in children signing up to football camps this summer.
And going into the 2022/23 season, we can expect to see even more children engaging with football, while attendances at WSL and Championship games should also significantly grow. Investment’s coming too, and Barclays has already agreed to split its £30m investment between the WSL and Championship.
Creating A Legacy
But legacy has been spoken about before – and hasn’t been delivered (see the rapid closure of sports facilities and loss of open space following London 2012). So what needs to be done to ensure women’s football continues its upwards trajectory? Here are my thoughts:
1. Better access to football pitches
The loss of school playing fields and other green space has given rise to more pay-to-play football centres. Prices for pitch hire at these venues can cost upwards of £75 an hour. With a cost of living crisis decimating household budgets, and expected to do so even more over the coming months, this is simply unaffordable for many.
And it’s not just a cost barrier here – there’s the bureaucracy of having to book a pitch and get together enough players to make it worthwhile and cost effective. While these state-of-the-art pitches are superior to what previous generations have grown up with, are they enough to get youngsters into the game?
2. Equality in schools
“Currently only 63% of girls can play football in PE lessons. The reality is we are inspiring young girls to play football, only for many to end up going to school and not being able to play. This is something that we all experienced,” says an open letter from the Championship-winning squad to the two candidates to be next PM.
It continues: “We ask you and the government to ensure that all girls have access to a minimum of two hours a week PE. Not only should we be offering football to all girls, we also need to invest in and support female PE teachers too.”
A recent report by my sports sector colleagues on gender inequality in sport touched on this issue. It pointed out that boys’ PE sessions will cover sports where – if they’re good enough - they can turn professional, whereas it’s not necessarily the case for girls. An example of this would be where the boys play cricket, but girls play rounders. Rounders isn’t even a professional sport. This needs addressing.
3. Focus on coaching
More female coaches are needed. As things stand, only half of WSL managers are women.
The FA has taken steps to address this through its game plan for growth strategy. Between 2017 and 2020, the strategy resulted in the recruitment of an extra 5,180 female coaches, according to the the FA’s website.
But with more women and girls looking to put on a pair of football boots following the success of this tournament, this progress is unlikely to be quick enough. Liverpool County FA has already launched a fully funded coaching course to address this.
4. Addressing diversity
A documentary by former Lioness and current BBC pundit Alex Scott has raised the issue of the lack of diversity at the top level of the women’s game. This was echoed during the tournament by her BBC colleague Eilidh Barbour, who pointed out that the England team that thumped Norway 8-0 had an all-white starting XI.
This diversity issue is something that also needs addressing if we’re to truly inspire the next generation of female footballers. We’ve seen from the men’s national side – and Olympians such as Mo Farah – how encouraging participation from our nation’s multitude of cultures can reap rewards.
5. More money
Money is the main thing that’s going to make a difference in addressing sport’s equality issues. While it’s great to see investment filtering in to women’s sports, such as the previously mentioned £30m from Barclays, more needs to be done.
I’ve seen more big brands get involved in sponsoring players and teams. This Euros saw the likes of Nike, Adidas, LinkedIn, JustEat and Heineken get involved. But we need brands to look further ahead than the next money-making tournament. We need them to become partners in our sports. But first, we need to really understand and overcome the barrier that’s currently stopping them from coming to the table.
I’ve travelled up and down the country following this tournament, co-hosting The Football Ramble’s Upfront podcast, working with Carol Thomas and Rachel Yankey as part of LinkedIn’s #FollowInHerFootsteps campaign, and presenting for the Sport Bible. From Brighton to Sheffield, I’ve been there for the big moments.
But what matters most is that this tournament paves the way for women’s football to become a success in its own right. It doesn’t need to follow the same path as the men’s game. And if we get it right then we’ll have more moments like Sunday 31 July 2022.
To read more about the gender disparity in elite sports, read our report.
For general enquiries
0370 1500 100
Or we can call you back at a time of your choice
Request a call back
Phone lines are open 24/7, 365 days a year