Following their victory at the Women’s Euros in the summer of 2022, the England Women’s National Football team have been named BBC sports team of the year. After a 2-1 win against Germany with 25-year-old Chloe Kelly scoring the extra time winning goal, the Lionesses became the first English national football team to lift a major trophy since the men’s world cup in 1966, doing so in front of a sold out crowd at Wembley stadium, the biggest in the UK.
Such an achievement has resulted in a plethora of awards and titles being given to the lionesses including the Pride of Britain Inspiration Award which they received only a few weeks before the BBC sports awards took place.
At the forefront of their achievements is 27-year-old forward Beth Mead who, after receiving player of the tournament and the golden boot at the European Championship, was named BBC Sports personality of the year at the end of 2022, becoming one of six footballers to have won the award.
The success of the Lionesses has sparked a nationwide interest in the women’s game, with ticket sales for the Women’s Super League reaching record highs, culminating in a 45,000 person crowd attending the Manchester Derby at the end of the first half of the season at the Etihad stadium, beating Manchester City’s previous highest attendance for a women’s match by over 13,000.
Players and staff alike have said that they want to capitalise on their success in the summer and use it to bring about change in society in order to achieve greater gender equality in football. To inflict permanent change, the Lionesses wrote and signed a letter addressed to parliament asking for all girls in the UK to have access to a minimum of 2 hours of PE per week. They also requested that the government make it a priority to invest in girls’ football and highlighted the importance of providing support for female sports teachers so that everyone can be given an equal opportunity to play the game.
What is more is that there has been a collective recognition of the growing importance of the idea that football needs to become a more inclusive sport. There have been developments made by the FA to make football more accessible to those who are disabled and an emphasis has been put on allowing everyone to play the sport regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, or sexuality.
This team has made incredible strides in the women’s game but there is still so much further to go to truly achieve equality, not only in football but in sport as a whole. Conversations must continue to happen within bigger organisations and between those in positions of power, otherwise the progress will become stagnant. However, it is safe to say that the Lionesses have succeeded in changing the nation’s perspective on women’s football and that they will continue to make advancements as they set their sights on the Women’s World Cup this year.