Euro 2022 began with organisers defending the choice of tiny stadiums, but 25 days later, a record European Championship crowd of 87,192 at Wembley for the final saw England win a major international tournament for the first time.
The legacy of the Lionesses may influence the complexion of the women’s game in England for future generations. A record 17.4 million people tuned in to watch England’s gripping 2-1 extra-time victory over Germany on Sunday, when Chloe Kelly scored the game-winning goal.
Sarina Wiegman’s team altered preconceptions while also winning the hearts of the host nation.
An Ipsos poll published on Monday found that 44 percent of the British public — and 64 percent of football fans — said they are more interested in watching women’s football following Euro 2022.
England’s women now have a platform their predecessors could only dream of and they used it to push the message of equality off the pitch.
“In most workplaces across the world, women still have a few more battles to face,” said captain Leah Williamson.
“For every change of judgement or perception or opening the eyes of somebody who views women as somebody with the potential to be equal to her male counterpart, I think that makes change in society.
“That’s a powerful message that we have the power to send, in a typically male-dominated environment.”
There is still a significant wage disparity between men’s and women’s football.
The prize money for the 16 competing teams at Euro 2022 is only 16 million euros ($17 million), compared to the 331 million euros awarded to the 24 nations at Euro 2020 last year.
UEFA defended the disparity by claiming that the event will incur a “substantial loss” due to a five-fold increase in infrastructure and facility spending.
However, a tournament with record crowds – with overall attendance more than doubling from Euro 2017 in the Netherlands – and TV audiences will reverberate across the continent.
“We expected a lot but to be honest we didn’t expect so much,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said at a women’s football forum on Sunday.
“The numbers are amazing, but it’s not only the numbers that are important. The matches are great and the technical skills have been unbelievable.
“Maybe some people — sponsors, broadcasters and everyone else — should start thinking that it’s worth investing in women’s football.”