‘You kick like a girl’… from unfounded insult to accolade in a matter of weeks. Why? Because thanks to the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the BBC’s coverage of it, more audiences have been able to watch or listen to, enjoy and celebrate women’s football than ever before this summer.
Steph Houghton and her England teammates have certainly been putting on a show in Canada. Their performances have given plenty of us, up and down the country, the opportunity to engage with and cheer for the Lionesses as they continue to break records. The more the merrier!
In the build-up to the tournament at the beginning of June, the inaugural Women’s #Sport Week highlighted what we at Women in Sport have long known and championed: the vociferous demand, desire and passion for women’s sport to be more visible and accessible.
In 2014, 60% of sports fans said they wanted to see more women’s sport shown live on TV and 53% believed women’s sport to be just as exciting to watch as men’s. If we asked that question today to fans watching the match in the early hours of Sunday morning in the #UK, I’m sure much closer to 100% would have said the match was as nail-biting as any England World Cup performance we have seen in recent times. Willing England’s women to hold on to that 2-1 lead in the second half was draining and thrilling in equal measure.
BBC Sport’s commitment to show every match of the World Cup live has been a huge step in the right direction. Barbara Slater, Director of Sport at the BBC, and her editorial lead for Women’s Sport, Shelly Alexander, are two unsung heroes of this World Cup. Without their backing our Lionesses could have been roaring into thin air.