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Rachel Unitt during Euro 2005
Rachel Unitt during Euro 2005

Women's football popularity on the rise

By Jaskirt Dhaliwal
Women's Football has never been so popular, site user and footy fan Jaskirt Dhaliwal explains why.

England's Euro 2005 attendances

England 3-2 Finland:
29,092 (City of Manchester Stadium)

England 1-2 Denmark:
14, 695 (Ewood Park)

England 0-1 Sweden:
25,694 (Ewood Park)

Combined total: 69,481
Average attendance: 23,160

It comes as little surprise that football has now replaced netball as the most popular female sport in England. When The FA took over the running of the women's and girls' game in 1993, there were just 11,200 registered players. Today that figure stands well over 100,000. Yet despite this rise, it still lags behind countries such as the United States where there are 7.8 million players. For a country which claims the beautiful game as its heritage, why is it that the US women are more revered than our own?

Sceptics or converts?

Under representation of women in sport, and football, is by no means an uncommon thing, you only have to look at the back pages of any newspaper to realise that, but after the success of Euro 2005, the times may be changing. Record attendances, impressive form, good TV ratings and an array of talent, all proved to propel the women's game into the limelight for a short time.

Alex Scott and Heidi Ahonen
Alex Scott and Heidi Ahonen

But now the competition is well and truly over, the new season has begun and any publicity gained has slowly fettered away. Only the dramatic plight of Birmingham City Ladies caught the public eye, after they were saved from imminent collapse and financial ruin in the 11th hour, proving miracles don't just happen in Instanbul!

Women's footy - good or bad?

However the effects are being felt, as Birmingham Ladies could no longer afford to hold onto most of their top acquisitions, players like Rachel Yankey and Alex Scott, which had previously made them responsible for a quarter of England's Euro 2005 squad. But all is not doom and gloom. Having managed to keep starlets Karen Carney and recruit England keeper Jo Fletcher, the Blues are aiming to stay in the National Premier Division and build again.

Steve Shipway, Birmingham City Ladies FC's chairman since 2000, has seen the game grow rapidly since he first became involved with the club. "The women's game internationally has increased its profile with a lot more media coverage, a prime example being the Euros this year. But I've seen a much greater transformation at Blues. When I first started here there were only two teams, and now we have a centre of excellence and four full teams from under 10's and upwards, with the senior side competing in the highest women's football league."

Although the quality and quantity of players are undoubtedly rising, the spectators are unfortunately not. Steve commented, "Football has become the biggest female sport, ahead of netball, hockey etc, and the game will continue to grow. However where it isn't developing is as a spectator game. Even though we (BCLFC) play in the highest division we're still only getting an average attendance of 60-70 people every match. The lack of media coverage doesn't help."

Rachel Yankey
Rachel Yankey

Jenny Wilkes, Chairwoman of Wolverhampton Wanderers WFC, agreed. "The media coverage is a problem. It's a bit "chicken and egg" - we need to get big gates to get the interest from the media, but we won't attract the crowds if the media don't cover the games. Wolves Women's average crowd is about 100-150 - mainly friends and families of the players. It doesn't help that satellite TV is showing games all Sunday afternoon and the local newspaper doesn't publicise the games."

The progression of the women's game did see one team, Fulham, go professional for a season whilst under the financial wing of its male counterparts. But as soon as that financial backing was taken away, they slipped into oblivion.

This summer nearly saw the same with BCLFC, who were expecting financial help from the men's side, but astonishingly BCLFC's male counterparts couldn't afford £75,000 (an average players three month wages) to support the entire ladies team, because they believed it wasn't 'commercially viable.' Well neither is Emile Heskey, yet £6.25 million was still spent on him.

"I believe that one of the major problems in the game is the lack of support from the men's clubs. The most successful women's clubs, eg: Arsenal, Charlton, Everton have that support," said Jenny. "Many other clubs are really struggling to survive. Many of the men's clubs are only interested in profits and don't want to give anything back. I think the FA should MAKE the men's clubs take their female teams on board. They have made them run the girls' Centres of Excellence (for girls aged Under 10 to Under 16) but there are no requirements to help the senior teams."

If this is the case than by the time the World Cup comes around in 2007 how much progression will be made? "If the FA doesn't do something soon, it will be in exactly the same position as it is now - with many teams struggling to survive. The FA puts a lot of money and effort into the national side, but not into supporting the teams which provide the players for the squad. We don't want to see a repeat of England's poor performance at Euro 2005."

Rachel Yankey and Rachel Unitt
Rachel Yankey and Rachel Unitt

Jenny Wilkes' last comment rings very true, because although Euro 2005 gained lots of publicity for the women's game, it would have garnered a hell of a lot more if the England team had progressed into the latter stages of the tournament. It was their chance to spark national pride and euphoria, but instead they crumbled as is too often seen with the men's team. But with a fantastic grass roots development in place, hopefully England’s ladies won't be too far off from reaching better heights next time round.

Looking more closely at the local side of things, here's a mini-breakdown of the leagues in which our local teams play. As stated, the Blues are in the top division, the FA Nationwide Women's Premier National Division. Then there is the Premier Northern and Southern Divisions. In the Northern Division are our very own Aston Villa LFC and Wolverhampton Wanderers WFC.

Then there follows a number of regional leagues that run across the country, including the Regional West Midlands Premier Division, which has West Bromwich Albion WFC present, the Regional West Midlands Division 1 North and Division 1 South leagues. There are also the County Birmingham F.A. Division's 1 and 2.

Priced out!

Not as simple as the men's nationwide leagues, but without even a fraction of their salaries, (in fact most women pay to play), the women's game is prospering. The dedication and passion of these women have lead to football coming leaps and bounds over the past decade, and let's hope it continues to do so.

From Sunday 25th September I'll be covering the Blues home games to see if they can bounce back in fashionable style, kicking off against Chelsea LFC at Redditch FC's ground. So look out for match reports and photographs in the near future!

last updated: 22/09/05
Have Your Say
What do you think of Women's Football? Can it be as big as the Men's game? Let us know what you think.
Your name: 
Your comment: 
The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

hannah and Nicole
we think ladys should get more noticed

footy mad
I think women have as much right to earn money by playing a sport they love not having to pay to play im a girl and i love footie, in my group of friends theres only me who plays football my friends say i shouldn't cause its boyish but i say people of different ages colours and sexes should play.

Ellie D
Being a player myself, I'd love to see womens football reach the level of the mens game. But personally im not sure its gonna happen. 1. Because of all the financial problems we have to face, like not being supported by the mens teams.2. Because of the attitudes of people towards the womens game. If people watch just because they think players are 'fit' then i dont think we're gonna get very far3.The publicity for women is definately not sufficient enough to get attention and as long as people arent seeing how good we can be, their attitudes that the womens game is not as exciting and up to the same standard as the mens game will not change.Im not saying its never going to happen because, you

I think women and men should have the same wages in football. Woman CAN play football and men football players and other men out there shouldnt doubt women. They can play football and they arent bad at sports. Women are just as good as men.

The football club I play for is sexist. My girls team, one afternoon, turned up for a football match and we were told we could not play because then under 18's (men/boys) were playing the following day so we could not 'ruin' the pitch for them. Our age group of boys had played that morning.If we are given equal opportunities and funding then we could become as big as men's football. I cannot see this ever happening though.

What is the average pay a year for womens football

Ladies should get paid as much as men, they do exactly the same thing. The men should no way get as much as they do, they only kick a ball! The money should go to police, ambulance and fire forces they save peoples lives.

a future pro footballer
i think professional football should be mixed so men and woeman would play along side each other against oters because football now is very sexist

kelsey broadbent! =)
i fink tht womens football iz ace!...but it wont get az big az the mens game because ..men are more physical and when i watch women play i feel that they can do better...i want to be a footballer...im 14...and im a lass ! there are no football teams around my area so please help me!!

Women are just as rough as men or are even rougher! Women should be paid the same amount as men because some women are better than men at football, i mean have you seen the mens conference!

no its not big as mens game

I Play For Tranmere Girlz & I Luvv It Football Isnt Just For Ladz!!! & I Am Straight...zoey- i play for Nomadsss

Corin needham
I think more women shuld play footy

Suzanne Chesworth
Women's football is great. I have played for Coventry City Ladies Fc, Balsall Common and Solihull Ladies where my manager Sarah Carney told me her sister Karen Carney played for England ladies FC

As a young women myself, i can see that men are classed as a better person to women. They are payed more and are favoured more than women which leads to the argument of who is the better person? There is no way to prove, as every men and woman has their own mental, physical and muscualr statistics. But, how can mens Arsenal team, (my supporting team) be better than womens when they are at the high at the moment. The women have won 4-1 to Charlton on Monday 7th May 2007 in the final!!! This has been their 4th major winning and they must be proud. They have certainly made me happy! Popularity in womens football is on the rise and there is nothing men can do to prevent it! Men are arguing that there is no competition - im not stereotyping though as it is not all men! Some men like to watch women play. Sure, women have their bad days but so do men. How many times have the mens england team got to the 1/4 finals and then got BeaT by the other team? And then the loss of their 'best' player, David Beckham last year. He had obviously had enough of losing...maybe he should consider managing a womens team...after all, they seem to be doing better than them so far!So my answer is yes!!! Womens football can become as popular as the mens and, most probably even more so than that of the mens game!

womens football is just as good if not better than the guys...i'd give my right arm to play for england ladies , one day i hope to make the england squad(i'm only 15) even if i had to pay to do it!! go girls ,lets win the world cup in china and show the guys we are just as good ...if not better

I play in the under12and I am as fast and strong as the boys. I am ace so boys watch this space girls will rule football

i think it will become very big as years gradually pass on.However how do young girls become a professional football player?

Male soccer is greatly overrated as far as "being more interesting." Personally, I don't find grown men overplaying a foul entertaining. My highschool team brings way more fans than our boys team, simply because there's much more action and intensity..watching people knock a ball around is not fun to watch. People need to support both genders, because it's soccer nonetheless.Joga Bonita.

claire cooper
women's football is the biggest sport at the moment and it is always still girls from all age groups are playing and progressing on to higher level of football it is amazing and i love to think that it will get played on tv often like men teams, because they is no difference between mens football and womens football it all just one good sport andthe main thing is keeping fit and enjoying the growing sport f womens football

u r exellent players

I think women have just as much right to become as famous and good as men. Just becasue women footbal has become more common recently doesnt mean women are less skilled at football than men. GO US GIRLS!! I play football and my idol is Rachel Yankey. My comment is this: Yes, the womens game can become as big as the mens!

women who play football are not as rough and strong as men. so it wont be that interesting to watch. soz ladies

andy m
i think it is good and there should be more and im a 13 year old boy

Ryan Croft
Simply no, the quality of football between the two genders is vast. Mens football is more intense, skillful, entertaining and enjoyable. I think women's football is great though, and all girls should definetely try it out. But it simply cannot become as big as the mens game, no matter how much funding and backing it recieves.

I think girls are very good football players! And I think girls and boys are both equally good and I don't see why the boys should be seen as better or as more talented.

Chloe king
girls are just as better as boys, they don't get given a chance! i think the girls should be played on tv as regular as the boys e.g. match of the day!! womens footie best eva!!

i love playing football, i used to play with the boys team but i had to give it up because i was a girl. i then joined the womans football team and it is great. just as much talent is played on the field. there is no reason why womans football cant be played at the same level with the same amount of publicity and money. i hope to become a wpro footballer

i think women's football is an pretty good idea i'm only 12 years old and i play football at recess and the boys pick me all the time because i can throw theycall me mrs.manning because i can throw far. And yes it can be as big as guys games. if i could i would join in the NFL.

yea im in middle school and im in the seventh grade but next year im trying out for the football team and all the boys and peeps are like wat the hell r u thinking girls cant play football

I don't think it will ever be as big, however there is plently of room for it to grow! sex sells unfortunately ladies football isn't sex at the moment i.e. tennis. If it was to become more appealing to males maybe.

Women's football is ace, yea it can be as big if not bigger than the men's game, but why dont women get paid as much as men?

Women's football is ace, yea it can be as big if not bigger than the men's game, but why dont women get paid as much as men?

i think the girls football team is way better than the boys. because girls are better than boys.

danny rigby
can womens football be as big as mens football?why on earth not!lets face it,football is about 22players(men or women)kicking a bag of wind about trying to score the most goals!its the best drama in the world.nobody knows the ending untill that final whistle.if you love the game it does not matter who is playing.i had trials at blackburn rovers(1979)but was a teenage idiot!(didnt make it)in hindsight i really think i should have.my daughter is now 8 years old and is as good as the boys at school(better than most)all the boys shout "give it to beth she will score"and she usually does (7 goals in 2 games)i only hope i can teach her a bit more and that there maybe a chance with a local team that she could join and maybe progress!as a father of a budding female footballer lets hope womens football can be as good as the mens,i cant see why not,its the greatest game in the world,whoever is on the pitch.good luck to all you females playing the game!!

Footy Gal
I think it should and will be as big as the mens leages (its not a mans game). I am only 13 but i am lookind for a career in football and with a bit of publicity the womens game could be great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



i love playing football with my team and i think womens football should be shown on telly just as much as the men as they are more exciting to watch

Tobey (im a girl)
I really like ladies football and i play for lincoln city under 10 centre of excelants. I think LADIES FOOTBALL should be shown more on TV!!!!!!!!!!!

Emechete Emmanuel okechukwu
I belive in what the english Fa is doing on Female soccer in England. I think it can move on perharps not as what is obtained in the mail league but it could be better than what we have in Norway,Sweden and China now. You need to get sponsors and get the Girls more commercialised with sports out fits and telecomm comp. Am sure there many individuals who are looking forward to developing the game over there. in Nigeria, the league is getting more spectatorship than in the male league games. We have many clubs signing on Players and the government is getting Involved. I believe in The English Female soccer league

i love football, and really enjoy playing and i know alot of girls that do! i don't see why women's football can't go big! i really want to join a local team and i can't find one, so i think it needs alot more publicity!

i think womans football should be publicised more. i play football and love it. i think more should be done to make it equal to mens football.

I've always played football and now i play for wolves, In womens football theres so much more passion than mens, men play for the pay, women pay to play, so it will become BIG!

stacey garnham
i have played football since i was young and i wont to do it for a career but there is not enough facilities. i like to think that womens football will be shown and enjoyed by more people giving girls a chance watch it and i garentee you will love it

sara stevens-holeman
Hi when I grow up I'm going to be a pro just watch and It's called passion.

sara s.h.
Hi I think it's not fair that we don't get paid as much as the guys it's not our fault that we were born as guys but thats not the point girls love soccer there's lots of girls at my school that love soccer just like me there's stuff coming your way Mia Hamm gets paid a lot but thats because she's a pro player soccer is my passion when I get older I'll show you all please just watch.

yes its not our fault we were born girls and its not fair and i love soccerlater

why cant we get paid as much as men

im 14 n want to play for a team but my fiend said i wont get in any teams, My dream when im older is to keep playin football and play for a team! But im not even good enough to get into the school team

i play football and i absolutely love it. i came on this website because i am writing a section of my btec work on the sexism towards women footballers and the lack of media coverage. Women's football needs to be shown more on the TV and reported in newspapers to increase the popularity and proftis of it. I am sure it can be as big as the mens' game but only if the media help out!!!!

katie hooper
i love football and play myself i personally think the women play with alot more passion than the men. i think it can be as big and i hope it does but the women need more publicity

zac lothian
yes just as good

yes... well i hope so! i love football and want to play profesionally when im older!

I think that if the papers and tv publicised womens football more then it would grow quicker. I am 16 and play for Linby Seniors, but more and more people in my local area have been noticing us, which is good as we are only a small club with around 7 teams.

Man in the Middle
I think ladies football is the best its been and I would rather be the man in the middle on a ladies game than some sunday morning side,where the standard and ability is poor. keep it up girls you are doing great.

should women play football can they afford it more than men

i play football at centre of excellence level U16 and i really love the game and want to carry on playing but the problem is that if i play for the academy after its such a great dedication train 3 times a week and play once a week and ive got to travel, pluts i want to do alevels as well their is no way i would have time for them 2 and juggle a job for some money.. women should be paid to play its not fair why do men get payed silly money and women get paied nothing

after playing for a few clubs and each time the teams proving they are just as good as the mens side if not better, i dont see why womens footy isnt as big as the mens..we NEED MORE oppotunities to be exposed and then mayb people more people would see exactly how good we are and the anoligments were shud get for are great skills in the game

ash ... 13
i play rfor bolton wanderers girls and lots of the boys at school respect me and admier me. i hope that most men can respect ladies in this way

yes. women are better than men at football. do women get paid?

Paris Shuttlewood
yea of course it can i mean look at how big in the last 5 years womans football has become. its just goin to grow and grow. girls are lookin for careers just the same as the guys. its about time the girls got just as much money to play too...

Womens football, should be advetised more in papers and on tv. Even the womens world cup is hardly watched, plus why not make the teams mixed if a women isn't good enough then don't let her be on the team but at least let her TRY! I love football but as i am female, i will never be as famous as David Beckham! womens football should be a lot biger! One day it'll be like when women couldnt vote and stuff like that and then the teams'll be mixed or women footballers WILL BE MORE OR JUST AS FAMOUS as men. Forget all the sexist rubbish........

georgey 15
i fink womens football is wel better than mens i play for MANCITY LADIES and we are a top team but just onyl if people gave us a chance to show wat we can do n prove them wrong!! we dont get anythin off city do it al off are own bks i do ope 1 day that womens football becomes big :D

i fink women's football is better than men's. people think women aint good enough but they are. my dream is to become a pro womens footballer and i am 17. we should get paid just like men.

At the end of the day- there are alot of sexist people in this world- is it because the big, strong men are afraid that the ladies will overtake them and gain publicity? do any of these sexist men take time out of there busy schedules and watch the england ladies??? i dont think so, or else the country would get behind the ladies as much as they do with the big headed men!! GGGRGRRRRRR i got stick when i was about 12 for playin football (by lads obviously)- with no confidence i quit the sport, but recently thought "ladies football will get nowhere if we drop out" so ive joined a club and coming along nicely again!! SOOO LASSES- STICK IN!!!

X.aimee llewellyn.X
hey every1,well i duno wer 2 start all these girls on here ave got the rgt idea bout footy!!im onli 14 years of age at the moment n i avent been playin football for that long well......bout 4 years 2b onest.i started off just avin a kick around in the park wiv me bro n his m8s but then 1 day i was palyin 4 my skl team n i didnt relies tha there was a scout there..but newayz he was from the walsall district n he asked me to go for trails at walsall fc,so there i was not long later playin for them.i stay played there for 1 season,then it all happened so fast......by the time i could say ye i was on a 2week trail at wolves centre of excellence i cudnt believe it,it was 1 of the most exciting feelingz eva.n yep i did get in i actually singed a 2 year coontract wiv them.girs it was gr8 but there again isnt most football exspaeacially uz girls/women.soooooo all iv got 2 say is i no there not much 4uz girls over here in football,but tha doesnt stop uz workin hard 2 get there n make it in football.just go 2 america n get ur scolerships if u wnt it work 4 it.u no it will be worth it in the end wem better than the ladz/women.well newayz maybe il c u all sumtym wen im on t.v opefully.lol.cuz id love 2 b the next rachel unit cuz shes me * i think shes amazing.cya xxxx.

i have been playing football since i was 9 ( now 16) and think its the greatest game in the world! but unfortunetly the english nation is only ever interested in teh mens games. but why? its jus sexism. i thought all this equality amongst the sex's was supposed to have kicked in. obviously not. so if teh men at the FA would bother to care about anything but making money for themselves they would help fund womens football. come on girls, show em what we got! cya x x x


yeh i think womens football will be as big as the mens game but i think they need more support i watched england womens and the atmosphere was amazing alot better then the mens im a girl and i play football and would love to become a professional one day. The womens play with passion and when they go down they get back up again straight away unlike the mens, but alot of girls are playing now and its getting bigger every day.

I think that womens football should be as big as mens as we are no different i think they are just being sexist. why cant womens football go as big as mens ?

I cant see how people can complain about womens fotball. Football is the best game in the world, it is only fair that everyone gets a proper chance to play it. I have been playing for a football team for 4 years now and over that period i have seen it develop massivley. There are so many more girls taking training/matches seriously and not just as a kick about on a sunday afternoon. People who think badly of girls football are just frightened of how good girls might be. My team has just got back from a tour in holland, and let me tell you that there were just as many people watching the girls games as there were watching the mens. If thats so in holland then why not here?I think if people took the gamble and went to watch girls football they would find it just as exciting to watch as the mens game. I genuinly feel that given time and the publicity it needs, girls football could become just as well known and watched as the mens.

Media Demon
I have had the good fortune to watch so many young players develop into very talented footballers over the last few years, I don't doubt for one moment that Womens Football can equal the men's game, in fact many in the circle of Women's football truly believe that Women's football will surpass the mens game, the mens game has reached it's pinnacle and is now on the decline. whilst Women's football is becoming increasingly popular at an alarming rate, you only have to look at the fact's from the USA and how much money is being put in at the grass roots level, the Americans are very pro active in the promotion and improvement of the Women's game,as is many other Countries across the Globe. The U.K is now slowly following our American allies, but we are moving in the correct direction. The next 5 years ,in my opinion, are going to show a huge surge of talented players, new teams, excellent International Squad's and popularity and interest throughout the Country. What is a major factor is how much help will Sport's governing bodies actually give the Women's game and can the leading figures within the walls of power of Women's Football be bold enough to take it to the next stage, it can overtake the men's game no doubt but will it be allowed too is really the question that should be asked and answered.

I think women's football definitely deserves greater recognition, and with the right support could easily go on to become as big as the mens game

As a female footballer myself, i think your article is great. The chicken and egg comment sums it up... its not fair for the women to be compared to the men cause i'm sure if they were getting paid a fraction of what the men do and training as much, it would be a very different story. As women we have just got to stick to what we love doing and maybe one day...we travelled over 2 an half hours to the euros games last summer and it was well worth it. roll on the world cup i say...

kurt ben n riky
we think rachel unitt is fit and she should def swap shirts after the game with one of us!

Jason Simmonds
i will be honest i stumbled across this page because i was looking up rachel unitt(stuinning young lady)...but as i read down the page i am amazed...after watching the england game against france im affraid that in my opinion womens football is not at a standard as yet where it can be compared to mens football...whatever the reasons.lack of opps,lack of funding,lack of interest?i honestly believe it is not prejudice holding the womens game back, its the standard!!This said the game is still progressin...the girls are coming on each year.in a few years time who knows...maybe...just maybe!

With Stunners like Rachel Unitt i dont care if the standard of football is lets face it conference level (Mens) at best, im still glued to the screen!good luck girls

rachel yankey is da best!!

beccie woods
hey chantelle, member me? i trained wif u once. n e ways i fink womens footy shud be as big as mens cuz were no different i fink women play jus as gud n e ways cya x

beccie woods from ellesmere port
i think womens football should be as big as the mens.

Rachel Dunkley
i dont think it will ever be as big as mens football but if there was more media coverage it would give people a chance to see that football can be played just as well by women. i also believe with more coverage it will open the eyes of younger girls and encourage them to take part. i think there is a slight trace of sexism between men and women football but we should be given a chance i mean i love the game i live for it and the best thing is that us ladies play simply for our passion for the game but these famous football players who play for man u and chelsea they love there money just as much as the game and u would never get female footballers going on strike because their not payed enough. Ladies football is more straight forward than mens its 100% footy! we rule! xx

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