Lionesses set to change the English game forever


LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) – England’s Lionesses have the chance to change the country’s football forever when they take on Germany in the Women’s Euro 2022 final at a sold-out Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

That’s according to former England player Karen Carney, who scored a goal the last time she reached the Euros final, suffering a 6-2 loss to Germany in 2009.

Since that crushing defeat in a half-empty Olympic stadium in Helsinki against a Germany side years ahead in their evolution, the women’s game in England has changed beyond recognition.

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At the time, most English at home were still part-timers, often needing time off from their daily jobs for training and most could walk through a crowded shopping center unnoticed.

Media coverage was almost non-existent.

Not anymore.

Sarina Wiegman’s ultra-professional side are quickly becoming a household name in the country, with the country gripped by the skill and intensity of their football and the positive vibes on and off the pitch.

This week’s 4-0 semi-final win over Sweden was watched by a peak BBC audience of 9.3 million and it will most certainly be crushed on Sunday as the Lionesses bid to become the first England team to win a major trophy for 56 years.

“In the 13 years since that final, the game in England has changed beyond belief,” Carney, who forged a career as a regular pundit on the men’s game, told The Guardian. .

“Players no longer have to set up training sessions in the park or hit the gym at their own pace – they’re professionals. At the time, only a handful of players who had gone to America were full time, including me.

“Now all the players are professional and the Women’s Super League, which has helped change the landscape, is one of the best competitions in the world.”

All of England’s top clubs have now jumped on the bandwagon and while players were once forced to seek opportunities abroad, they can now earn big bucks at home.

Lucy Bronze already has sponsorship deals with Nike and Visa and for the likes of top scorer Beth Mead, who plays for Arsenal, and Manchester United’s Alessia Russo, the brands will be falling over themselves to sign them.

England’s players would be in line for bonuses of around 55,000 pounds ($66,913) if they win the title, but it’s impossible to assess what impact that would have on the women’s game in a country where its potential is still untapped.

“In terms of breaking records, from pitch attendance to the number of eyeballs on games to grassroots attendance, everything is going up,” said Gabby Logan, who anchored the BBC coverage.

“If you look at it as a graph, it’s only going up and it feels like, as they say in business parlance, it could be a hockey stick moment.”

There is an argument that even if England fail to beat eight-time European champions Germany in front of a huge crowd at Wembley, the Lionesses have already lit the blue paper for the sport to move on to another level.

Victory, however, would spark wild celebrations across the country.

“These are occasions that create memories and the final is definitely more special being England versus Germany,” Carney said. “I’m not sure anything can prepare the players for this.”

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Reporting by Martyn Herman Editing by Christian Radnedge

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