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Lionesses ‘have changed how the country sees women’s football’

England’s Chloe Kelly (right) celebrates scoring their side’s second goal of the game (Adam Davy/PA)
England’s Chloe Kelly (right) celebrates scoring their side’s second goal of the game (Adam Davy/PA)

England’s historic Euros triumph has changed the way the women’s game is viewed, a former player has said, as thousands of fans gear up to celebrate the Lionesses’ victory in central London.

England beat Germany 2-1 after extra time in front of 87,000 supporters at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, securing the first major tournament title for the country since 1966.

Midfielder Jill Scott proudly showed off her medal as she left England’s hotel on Monday morning, telling reporters: “I’ve still got it on. I’m keeping it safe.”

The final attracted a peak TV audience of 17.4 million, a record for a women’s football match in the UK, according to overnight ratings released by the BBC.

The previous record was set during England’s 2019 World Cup semi-final defeat by the United States, which enjoyed a peak audience of 11.7 million.

Up to 7,000 supporters will have the opportunity to join the team at an event hosted by ex-player Alex Scott in Trafalgar Square from 11am on Monday.

England v Germany – UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 – Final – Wembley Stadium
Players celebrate at Wembley (Nigel French/PA)

Scott, a former England international, said the Lionesses’ win will be a game-changer in terms of raising the profile of women’s football.

She told BBC Breakfast: “These Lionesses have raised the bar.

“They have changed the way women’s football is viewed in this country.

“The train has left the station and it is gathering pace.

“It will be tragic to take any steps back after what we have witnessed yesterday and through the whole tournament.

“There must be an opportunity for every single girl to play football if they want to.”

The FA’s director of women’s football, Baroness Sue Campbell, said England’s win will make a “phenomenal difference”.

She told BBC News: “I think it’ll really take it to another level. But I think what happened yesterday was much broader than football.

“I think it will change the perception of women in sport generally, and I hope give women and girls real optimism that if they want to do something in life, whatever it is, if they work at it, they’re going to achieve it.”

Baroness Campbell said she is not surprised at the TV viewing figures, adding: “I think we’ve inspired a nation here.

“It’s not just people who are interested in football before. We’ve got lots of new people who’ve watched the women’s game, and lots of people who I hope will continue to support and watch the women’s game.

“But we’ve also inspired lots of youngsters to realise that sport, football, is for them.”

Meanwhile, Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham said England’s success will “turbo charge” the women’s game in this country.

“The last few years have been incredible. We have invested really heavily and the Lionesses have taken their opportunity and they have produced something incredible.

“It’s been an amazing month and an amazing day yesterday,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“I think it will really turbo charge everything we have been doing in the women’s game.

“There is no reason why we shouldn’t have the same number of girls playing as boys and it will inspire a whole new generation of players.”

David Baddiel, who recorded the classic football song Three Lions with Frank Skinner and rock band Lightning Seeds in 1996, said he hoped his daughter and her children would think of football not as “default owned by men” but as “the same game, played by women or played by men”.

England v Germany – UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 – Final – Wembley Stadium
The Duke of Cambridge joins in the celebrations (Danny Lawson/PA)

The comedian told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We talk about football and we just assume you mean men’s football, but we should say ‘men’s football’ or ‘women’s football’ because football is not by default owned by men.

“But that is something that I think has only been made clear very, very recently.”

Mr Baddiel added: “It’s the same game, played by women or played by men. And what’s totally brilliant in the last sort of few weeks is the sense that the country can get behind it in entirely the same way.”

The free entry event in Trafalgar Square is on a first-come first-served basis, with live music from DJ Monki, a showing of tournament highlights and a Q&A involving the players and manager, Sarina Wiegman, before the trophy is lifted.

It comes after the Queen praised the team, saying their “success goes far beyond the trophy”.

Fans watch England v Germany – UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 – Final
Supporters revel in England’s win (Aaron Chown/PA)

She said in a statement: “You have all set an example that will be an inspiration for girls and women today, and for future generations.”

The Duke of Cambridge was among those supporting from the sidelines, and after the match he said it had been “wonderful to see history in the making”, while captain Leah Williamson dubbed it “the proudest moment of my life”.

Supporters who attended the match described the team’s win as a “victory for girls across the country”.

There was a carnival-like atmosphere as a huge sea of England flags were carried out of the stadium after the match, with supporters cheering, blowing horns and singing Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and Queen’s We Are The Champions.

As the celebrations continue, the Band of the Irish Guards will play a selection of football music at the Changing the Guard at 11am.

They will be playing We Are The Champions, Three Lions, Sweet Caroline and Gold.

Elsewhere, Conservative Party leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak described the Lionesses’ victory as a “great night”, while Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: “We were at the home of football and football came home with the Lionesses. I was there with Liz and we had a great time, cheering on the Lionesses, who really uplifted the mood of the nation and what a great tournament it’s been.”

“It’s key to make sure we continue to support girls’ football, women’s football, and I believe yesterday will really help with the professional game as well as continuing to increase the take up of ladies on the pitch.”