England’s win in the Euro 2022 Final was watched live at Wembley by 87,192 fans and by 17.4 million on the BBC with an additional 5.9 million streams on the BBC iPlayer.
It is a tournament which has smashed records at every turn with TV audiences rising for the host nation from 3.6 million who tuned into the opening night game against Austria and 27.4 million watching at least some of the coverage.
The previous record for a Women’s football match was England’s semi-final defeat to the USA in the 2019 World Cup which was watched by 11.7 million.
Sunday’s game is, barring the death of a royal or major disaster, guaranteed to be the biggest audience of the year on British TV, four million more than had tuned in to watch the celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June.
The hope now must be that this surge of support for the game will translate to attendance and support for the Barclay’s Women’s Super League when that returns on September 9th.
Sunday’s scorers Ella Toone and Chloe Kelly play for Manchester United and Manchester City respectively while captain Leah Williamson is with Arsenal and most of the stars are playing in the English game.
Lucy Bronze and Georgia Stanway moved prior to the Euro’s to Barcelona and Bayern Munich but there will be enough familiarity with the domestic stars to raise the average attendance which in the last full non-Covid season was still under 3,000.
There will be a tipping point at which stage it becomes normal to go to see Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool regardless of whether it is men or women that are wearing the shirt.
For patriotic fans, this will be the first time to see English players that have won a major tournament in 56 years.
Even though the viewing figure was exceptional it still comes in at around half of the number who watched the Men’s team lose their Euro 2021 final last summer, but even taking that as a comparator, should we then be looking at half the average men’s game attendance which in 2019 was 38,168.
In November 2021 the FA in England published targets which suggested an aim of the average attendance of 6,000 by 2024. Perhaps that did not factor in the England team going so far this summer but surely now the hope must be to get that figure to at least in the realm of five figures.
And it will also be important given the gap that needs closing, that every record should be seen as a platform for the next.
In terms of star appeal, entertaining football and feel-good narratives, Euro 2022 was a big win.
There will be a lift for the Irish game as well with Northern Ireland setting a new standard with their qualification, and the Republic of Ireland team selling out September 1st’s World Cup Qualifier against Finland in Tallaght within hours of going on sale.
Players wearing green in September will then go back to teams in the WSL and the Championship that will themselves gain a major lift in terms of popularity and awareness.
The Next World Cup Finals will take place in Australia and New Zealand from July 20th to August 20th, 2023. 12 European teams will be among the 32 taking part and it will be the next major step in the advance of the game.
It will be important though to watch in the meantime to make sure that the pillars of the sport on a week-by-week basis remain strong and that it does not merely catch the eye of the sporting and the general public when it comes to the highest of days.