Sport

Monday briefing: Five big ideas to grow women’s football after England’s heroics

Good morning!!!!!!! I don’t want to alarm you, but something… good has happened. Something wonderful, actually. Thanks to Ella Toone’s sublime lob, Chloe Kelly’s toepoke, top-twirl, and subsequent mid-interview microphone theft, Jill Scott’s sensationally lipreadable swearing, whatever cheat code Sarina Wiegman is using, this failed instructional note, this kid, Sweet Caroline, Three Lions, and ten minutes of magnificently cynical extra-time shithousery, England beat Germany 2-1 and won Euro 2022. So good! So good! So good! So good!

Apologies to all readers who don’t support England. Although, honestly, you didn’t have to be a rabid partisan to find something to love about this team, and this moment – which, as a host nation triumph in front of a record crowd for a men’s or women’s international match in Europe, in a country where the women’s game has felt for a while like it might be on the edge of something huge, could hardly be better timed.

As Gabby Logan said in a particularly goosebumpy conclusion to the BBC’s coverage: “The lionesses have brought football home; now it’s down to the rest of us to make sure it stays here. You think it’s all over? It’s only just begun.”

There’s tons of coverage on the website, from a reaction live blog which has just fired up to Carrie Dunn and Jonathan Liew to player ratings and a cracking picture gallery; for today’s newsletter, Nimo Omer and I asked five contributors to the Guardian’s coverage of the tournament for their thoughts on how to make sure this really is the beginning of something. First, here are the headlines.

Five big stories

  1. Ukraine | Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Ukraine’s harvest this year could be half its usual amount because of the Russian invasion, in comments likely to intensify fears of global hunger. In 2021 Ukraine produced 80m metric tonnes of grain, enough to feed 400 million people for six months.

  2. Conservative leadership | Rishi Sunak has pledged to slash taxes by 20% by the end of the decade in a last-gasp pitch to Conservative members with the first ballots set to drop in the leadership race. Sunak said he would cut the basic rate of income tax to 16p by the end of the next parliament.

  3. Crime | A man has been charged with the murder of nine-year-old Lilia Valutyte after she was stabbed in Boston on Thursday, Lincolnshire police have said. Deividas Skebas, 22, is due to appear at Lincoln magistrates court on Monday.

  4. Health | The NHS is to use artificial intelligence to detect, screen and treat people at risk of hepatitis C under plans to eradicate the disease by 2030. The new programme, due to begin in the next few weeks, aims to help people living with hepatitis C get a life-saving diagnosis and treatment before it is too late.

  5. Archie Battersbee | Ministers have asked the high court to “urgently consider” a request by the UN to stop life-support treatment being ended for 12-year-old Archie Battersbee. At present, treatment is due to be withdrawn at 2pm today.

In depth: ‘Just market the hell out of the game’

England lift the trophy after their victory over Germany.
England lift the trophy after their victory over Germany. Photograph: Rob Newell/CameraSport/Getty Images

Suzanne Wrack: Level the playing field in the Women’s Super League

There has been a lot of investment in the women’s game in England, and it’s more competitive – but there is still a massive gap between the biggest clubs in the Women’s Super League (WSL) and the rest. If you look at Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City, they’re so far ahead – whereas you might have a top player like Chelsea striker Sam Kerr on upward of £300,000 a year, the average WSL salary is reportedly around a tenth of that.

You also then have a real gulf between the WSL and the rest. Look at a club like Leicester: they have the backing of a big Premier League side, and when they got promoted into the WSL they invested heavily, have a really good young coach, new training facilities and they’re playing in the main stadium. Everything was set up for them to succeed. But they got hammered quite a few times. That is a reflection of the gap.

To make the league more competitive, there’s a case to be made that the clubs should be committing money into a central pot that gets distributed, rather than just investing in their own sides. That could make a difference quickly. At the moment, it feels like we’re on a journey towards Premier League Mark II. That’s because they want to get the big clubs on board to accelerate growth – but this tide isn’t going to raise all boats, which is what you need. There’s a danger that they build the castle without the foundations.

Suzanne Wrack is women’s football correspondent for the Guardian and the Observer and author of A Woman’s Game: The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Women’s Football


Faye Carruthers: England should bid to host the next World Cup

There is already a joint bid between Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands for 2027. But because of the success of the Euros so far, it’s going to be a hotly contested bidding process. And England should be part of it.

It’s important for people to see that the country is keen to host the World Cup, to maintain momentum. With the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year, the time difference means that for fans over here, it’s not going to get the same amount of traction as this home tournament has done.

The Lionesses have secured a whole swathe of new fans because of what they have achieved this summer. Success breeds support, and that then transfers onto the domestic game, and then further down the pyramid to participation.

Faye Carruthers is host of The Guardian’s Women’s Football Weekly podcast. Listen to the Monday morning reaction edition here.


Louise Taylor: Make the next school year a watershed for the girls’ game

At present only 44 per cent of secondary schools offer girls and boys equal access to football within the school day. Just 40 per cent of all schools offer identical footballing opportunities to girls during evenings, weekends and holidays. If we are to produce the best possible England teams of the future – not to mention have a healthier, happier, female population – that needs to change.

Right now, far too much potential female talent is being left overlooked and untapped. Let’s hope head teachers all over the country are energised by the Euros and cease to pay mere lip service to sporting equality for girls.

Louise Taylor is north-east football correspondent for the Guardian


Sophie Downey: We should just market the hell out of it

I’ve followed the women’s game for 10 years now and it’s massively different from where it was – that 9.1 million viewers watched the England v Sweden semi-final is just ridiculous. But, crucially, it’s now about maintaining that coverage, because, as we’ve seen in the past, things do drop off both in terms of attendance and coverage of the sport after big tournaments. We have a responsibility as the media to make sure that the game’s at the forefront of people’s minds for the next year.

The way we’ve marketed women’s football in the past hasn’t always been correct. For a long time we’ve targeted young children, girls specifically. We mixed up the participation element with the attendance element. We just have to realise that there are so many different demographics to talk to and we should just market the hell out of it over the next year because the demand is there. That’s clear.

Sophie Downey is a freelance football writer and regular contributor to the Guardian’s women’s football newsletter, Moving the Goalposts


Jen Offord: Don’t lose what makes the women’s game so special

In theory, it would be possible for women’s football to be its own game completely, with its own clubs and its own structure not linked to the men’s game. In practice, I don’t think that’s going to happen: it’s going to be the “one club” approach that continues, with women’s teams as part of the same organisations. That will mean more money going into the women’s game, and women should have equal access to those resources. But the “one club” idea is disingenuous. The teams aren’t valued equally – there’s a clear hierarchy.

Money is part of what can be so toxic in the men’s game – it breeds resentment among fans, players become so wealthy that they are almost seen as not a real person, that they can’t be touched by abuse. Whereas the women’s game is a much nicer vibe, more celebratory, less bitterness – none of this business of middle-aged men shouting abuse at boys young enough to be their sons. I would have no problem taking my daughter to a match when she’s old enough, whereas I might with the men’s game.

I have this sense that the women’s game has a freedom and a passion that we don’t always see in the men – like they really want to be there. And that is joyful to watch. As the game grows, I really hope we never lose that.

Jen Offord hosts the Standard Issue podcast and wrote The Year Of The Robin, an account of Charlton Athletic’s struggles during a pandemic season. Read her recent Guardian piece, The Euros prove it: women’s football is not like men’s – and that’s good

Sign up to Moving the Goalposts, the Guardian’s weekly women’s football newsletter, to keep reading about the game

Women’s football mailbag

‘England v Spain in February in Norwich changed my view of football supporters’.
‘England v Spain in February in Norwich changed my view of football supporters’. Photograph: Daniela Porcelli/SPP/REX/Shutterstock

Last week, we asked you to tell us if you think women’s football is at a turning point. Here’s a selection of your responses:

  • England v Spain in February in Norwich changed my view of football supporters. My opinion of ‘big football’ was formed in the 80s, when there was open gang warfare between fans, and violent players were lauded by journalists. But I will happily again take my seven-year-old daughter to a women’s professional match for a memorable, positive experience of a fun family atmosphere of women role model players and female supporters. Asher

  • I hope that this is a turning point … but I absolutely hope that it isn’t a point where the female grassroots ‘ownership’ of the game is taken away from us. That the women can continue to play, manage, referee and support the teams on their own terms – we don’t need men to suddenly get interested in the game now it’s successful after years of put downs and insults. It’s the women’s game and I sincerely hope that it doesn’t lose that. It is more than women playing football: it is women’s football. Please don’t take it away from us – and our daughters. Zoe

  • I had already become rather bored with the men’s game and after seeing the women play I’ll not be watching the men any more until they play with the same skill, enthusiasm, determination, flair, commitment and variety of style that the women have demonstrated. Their games have been a joy to watch for all the reasons that the men’s games usually aren’t. Chris

  • Yes, it’s a turning point! Not only in the UK, but also abroad. I live in Switzerland, where professional women’s football is still in its infancy. For a long time already, England and the WSL have been admired as the place to be for female footballers (think of Lia Wälti at Arsenal). With England’s powerful demonstration of skill, I think more and more countries will recognise that investing in and supporting women’s football lead to great success. Julia

What else we’ve been reading

  • After thousands of users — including the Kardashians — complained about Instagram’s new updates, the social media titan was forced to retreat. Dan Milmo and Alex Hern explain why Instagram is hell bent on copying its arch nemesis and whether its strategy will work. Nimo

  • The UK has a drinking problem, writes James Wilt – and the alcohol industry doesn’t want us to kick it. I’ll remember this statistic in particular: Industry revenues would drop by 38%, or £13bn a year, if all drinkers used alcohol below recommended guidelines. Archie

  • I loved this interview by Andrew Anthony with Frankie Boyle and Denise Mina. Bouncing off each other, Boyle and Mina discuss their journeys into crime fiction and how they’ve honed their craft. Nimo

  • As more universities announce that they’re suspending humanities and arts degrees, Kenan Malik argues that the class divide in these courses will only deepen. Nimo

  • This lovely Observer piece hears from ten cartoonists who are mourning Boris Johnson’s exit. My favourite nugget is from the Daily Telegraph’s Patrick Blower: “He’s one of the very few people you can draw from behind, and you always know instantly who he is. Compositionally that’s a very useful asset.” Archie

Sport

Swimming | Adam Peaty finished a shock fourth in the Commonwealth Games 100m breaststroke final – his first defeat since 2014. England’s James Wilby took the gold.

Motor racing | Max Verstappen won the Hungarian Grand Prix to extend his lead at the top of the Formula One standings over Charles Leclerc, who finished sixth. Lewis Hamilton was second and George Russell third.

Cycling | Laura Kenny has called for bigger barriers to be fitted at velodromes after a horrific crash saw England’s Matt Walls catapulted over the railings and into the crowd on Sunday. Kenny said she was so shaken after the “horrendous” accident that she had almost withdrawn from her own race.

The front pages

Guardian front page 1 August
Photograph: Guardian

The Lionesses’ historic win is celebrated across front pages. “It wasn’t a dream … we DID beat Germany in a final!” says the Mail.“No more years of hurt” is the Metro’s take while the Guardian splashes with “Game changers”. The Independent says simply “History”.

The Times has “Lionesses bring it home” and the Express says “It’s home”. The Mirror goes with “History makers” while the Sun says “Move over fellas… its home”.

The Telegraph has the team celebrating under the headline “It’s come home: England 2-1 Germany,” and also moves away from sport with “Sunak pledged 4pc income tax cut”. The FT has the England win with the headline “Stuff of dreams: Lionesses take Euro victory” above its main story “West eases Russian oil curbs as inflation and energy risks mount”.

Today in Focus

Liberia-flagged oil tanker Nave Andromeda at Southampton Docks
Liberia-flagged oil tanker Nave Andromeda at Southampton Docks. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

What really happened on board the Nave Andromeda?

Journalist Samira Shackle on the curious case of an oil tanker and stowaways in the Channel and what it revealed about UK immigration laws.

Cartoon of the day | Edith Pritchett

Sign up for Inside Saturday to see more of Edith Pritchett’s cartoons, the best Saturday magazine content and an exclusive look behind the scenes.
Sign up for Inside Saturday to see more of Edith Pritchett’s cartoons, the best Saturday magazine content and an exclusive look behind the scenes. Illustration: Edith Pritchett/The Guardian

Sign up for Inside Saturday to see more of Edith Pritchett’s cartoons, the best Saturday magazine content and an exclusive look behind the scenes

The Upside

A bit of good news to remind you that the world’s not all bad

People queue to buy ice cream from an ice cream van in Liverpool.
People queue to buy ice cream from an ice cream van in Liverpool. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Researchers from the University of York, Lancaster University and New York University have found that, despite accents from the south of England spreading, Northern dialect speakers are holding their own. 14,000 native English speakers were surveyed, and the researchers concluded that northern accents were flourishing – meaning that we’re not all going to sound the same, and there’s still a rich variety of accents in the UK. They even found some traditionally northern terminology spreading – like “lolly ice” rather than “ice lolly”, previously thought to only be in use in Liverpool, now in north Wales as well. “Accents still form a huge part of people’s identity,” said Dr George Bailey. “There is a real pride in that and it is not something we are going to give up lightly.”

Sign up here for a weekly roundup of The Upside, sent to you every Sunday

Bored at work?

And finally, the Guardian’s crosswords to keep you entertained throughout the day – with plenty more on the Guardian’s Puzzles app for iOS and Android. Until tomorrow.

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