The increasing popularity of women’s football is clear for all to see, and the TV audience share for England’s European Championship victory over Spain peaked at a mammoth 7.6 million.
That’s double the viewing figure for the Lionesses’ previous game against Northern Ireland, and a further 1.5 million people watched the nervy extra-time win via BBC’s iPlayer and Sport app.
Sarina Wiegman’s team will now face either Sweden or Belgium in the semi-finals of the tournament next Tuesday (April 26), and with the game scheduled for primetime on BBC One, it would not be surprised to see the total audience number crash through the ten million barrier.
And if they can reach the final, as they will be favourites to do with the bookmakers, they could yet smash the best-ever viewing figure for a women’s game in the UK. That stands at a mammoth 11.7 million people, who tuned in to see the Lionesses take on the USA in the 2019 World Cup semi-final.
That was around 50% of the total TV audience share, and was 1.5 million shy of the most watched programme of the year – the finale of BBC drama Line of Duty.
At the time, former Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn spoke of the importance that drawing a huge audience would have on the women’s game.
“What’s been so different and great about this tournament is the sheer number of people watching the Lionesses on TV,” he said.
“It’s moved from being an interesting Olympic-type sport to an absolute mainstream sport. The importance of that is that adds attraction, it pulls girls and women into playing.”
The 30 million that watched England take on Italy in the men’s Euro 2020 final will never be eclipsed, you would think, but a tally of 15 million should the Lionesses reach the final is not impossible.
And it continues the trend for the number of people tuning into women’s sport, which has increased considerably in 2022.
It’s In the Game
In another dose of hugely positive news for women’s football, computer games developer Electronic Arts – the brains behind the ever-popular FIFA franchise – have revealed that club sides will feature in the title for the first time later this year.
FIFA 23, which is set for release on all of the major consoles in the autumn, will feature both the FA Women’s Super League and France’s Division 1 Feminine, with all players, clubs and kits fully licensed for the first time. Gamers will also be able to lead the Lionesses, or any other country, to glory in the World Cup, which will be contested in real life next year.
What’s more, Chelsea and Australia goal machine Sam Kerr will be one of the cover stars alongside Kylian Mbappe.
Women’s players have featured in FIFA since the 2016 iteration, however the scope has been limited to just international teams and Create a Pro so far.
“We’re committed to building an equitable experience and aspire to help grow women’s football,” so said the title’s producer, Matt Lafreniere.