With the 2022 Euros due to get underway in less than a month, we rounded off our discussion with Karen Bardsley talking about the legacy she hopes the Euros will leave on women’s football. The Euros will no doubt be a pivotal moment for women’s football both domestically and internationally.
Bardsley: Impact of the Euros
When asked what she believed the impact of the tournament would be, Bardsley seemed confident in her answer. “It’s going to be huge. I mean when you think back to the 2012 Olympics that was a real platform and stepping-off point for the sport in general”.
The 2012 London Olympics were indeed a pivotal moment for Women’s football in England. Just two years later the WSL would take on its current format. The development of the Championship, then known as WSL 2, provided a clear opportunity for players to play at the highest levels.Embed from Getty Images
“Obviously people want England to do well but the media coverage, the television, the radio, things like this in the park that probably would have never happened. It all adds layer by layer to increasing participation and widening support of the game and opportunities for girls and women”.
Karen Bardsley about attendances
Attendances too have been a key talking point in the run-up to the tournament. Discussions around a perceived lack of ambition in the selection of venues have highlighted the need for a middle ground. The desire to see games selling out must also be balanced with maintaining high attendance targets. Few games have completely sold out throughout the 2021/22 WSL season.
Sell-out crowds are expected for both the opening game at Old Trafford and the final at Wembley. So how can we try to draw people in to watch the league? Bardsley had clearly put some thought into the subject when asked how we could carry the high expected attendances into the domestic season.
“I think before covid you could argue we were seeing much higher attendances at games in person. Then obviously covid kind of knocked that back a bit, So I think we’re still kind of building that back up but then also now that the media is covering the games a bit more, people can stay home. I think it’s only a matter of time until the attendances start to build again”.
Showpiece events at Old Trafford, The Etihad, and The Emirates have demonstrated the league’s ability to draw larger crowds. However despite television viewing figures proving there is a genuine desire to watch women’s football, attendances in stadiums haven’t necessarily painted the same picture. So how does KB believe the Euros help to bring fans who would typically watch from home into the stadiums?
“Ultimately it’s down to the FA , other organisations, and the clubs to kind of promote it and say, this is the respect that we think this game deserves and you should respect it. To essentially put it on the same level as the men. Making it an interesting and entertaining product that they have to value”.Embed from Getty Images
Karen Bardsley: Euro 2022’s legacy
Ensuring this summer has a lasting impact will be pivotal to the tournament being considered a success. Initiatives such as the Wildcats program will play a vital role in building the legacy of the competition. Providing primary school-aged girls access to football, the initiative looks to build the future of women’s football in England.
The FA’s legacy plans set out ambitions across participation, coaching, and refereeing until 2024 for each of the host cities. Bardsley herself is a member of the Manchester and Trafford committee.
“I think that’s the way to ensure future generations are going to have access to football in primary school. It’s going to become something normal for girls and then the culture and perception of girls playing is going to become normalised. Ultimately I think that’s how the legacy is going to come to fruition”.