England Women headed into the World Cup with the hope of inspiring a generation. They’re certainly succeeding.
A remarkable 1.6million people tuned in to watch the historic quarter-final victory over Norway in the early hours of Sunday morning, with awareness and support of the sport at an all time high.
City have a particular interest in the Lionesses' progress given that five of our stars are in contention to start against Japan in tonight's semi-final.
Ahead of the match we spoke to sports broadcaster Jacqui Oatley, covering the tournament for the BBC, to discover her views on the impact this tournament is having on the women's game.
In Jacqui's words...
England have progressed further than I think most people expected. The fact the Lionesses are on the back pages – and front pages – of newspapers is hugely significant because it means young girls will be switching on their televisions, opening their newspapers and seeing women on the football pitch playing at the top level.
As a result, it’s hoped girls will ask their parents whether they can play football. Equally, parents will hopefully see these players and agree there’s no reason why they shouldn’t get their daughters involved. This could well be a turning point for the women’s game.
My boss told me the other day nearly 11m people have watched a minimum of 15 minutes during this tournament – that’s a heck of a lot of people. The awareness is there and the viewing figures have proved there is a demand for it.
It’s great that the game is growing and that’s due to a number of people – the FA, the players themselves and the clubs, such as Manchester City who have done great things to improve and promote the women’s game. Their part in this cannot be underestimated and it’s been brilliant to have so much support from role models in the men’s game too.
This is a great opportunity to take a step forward and if England were to win the World Cup, of course the game would go through the roof in this country.
The most important thing to come from this though is for those people who have been watching our coverage of the tournament to continue to support women’s football afterwards – for them to find out where their local club is and go down and watch.
Women’s football is so family-friendly and very affordable – I can’t think of any other family activity you can do for those prices and people can even meet the players afterwards. That’s definitely the next step.
Awareness and good crowds equals sponsorship. In the commercial world, companies want role models and visibility. If they think a certain player can sell their product, that’s the way this sport can be self-sustaining.
I think England can win the tournament but it will be incredibly difficult. I certainly think they can beat Japan as they did in the last World Cup. Japan are a fantastic football side – they keep possession so well – but it’s a knock-out match and anything can happen. The Lionesses have already proved they can exceed expectations so why not?