Kerys Harrop's letter to the Lionesses
Mon 01 August 2022, 18:00|Tottenham Hotspur
Well, where to begin, what a day it was yesterday! I have hardly slept and the first thing I did this morning was check the news and re-watch everything about the Lionesses winning the Women’s Euros. I have sat for the last couple of hours smiling at my phone and loving every single piece of information on social media about the success of the girls last night.
I was very fortunate to have been at the game yesterday. The atmosphere at Wembley was electric and the crowd gave the Lionesses the push they needed to win the match. A home Euros with England vs Germany in the final at Wembley stadium! It’s what dreams are made of.
As a former England player, who has played alongside some of the more experienced players - such as Ellen White, Mary Earps and Lucy Bronze - I know it will have been their ultimate dream to play in a home Euros final. To go on and win the trophy in front of a record crowd for any Euro’s final - men’s or women’s - of over 87,000 people is phenomenal.
I was sat in the crowd yesterday and I was quite emotional. I am a player who has been lucky enough to play at the top level of women’s football now for 15 years and never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that an England game would attract an audience big enough to sell out Wembley.
I played for England when we won the U19 European Championships in 2009 and there wasn’t much of a crowd watching us. Fast forward to 2022 and the media attention surrounding the Lionesses is just incredible. They are now global superstars (rightly so!) which is testament to every member of the squad who has played so brilliantly across the whole tournament.
The Lionesses proved that if the product on the pitch is good, fans will watch in their thousands. Long may that continue in women’s football. There have been numerous times in the past where the England Women’s team have come heartbreakingly close to winning a major tournament. One of the main reasons I believe why the Lionesses have been so successful this time round is investment.
The FA Women’s Super League turned fully professional around 2017 and in the last few years you can see how much the quality has improved. The girls have been able to train full time as professional footballers and not hold down a part time job too. With anything in life the more you practice the better you become hence why now the quality of women’s football is much better than in previous years.
Most players in the Women’s Super League can now choose to focus fully on football. This is due to significantly higher levels of investment from the men’s clubs who support their women’s teams, the FA, and partners. The women’s game is attracting more sponsorship than ever before and I am sure, after the success of the Lionesses last night, the interest is going to go through the roof. There’s never been a more exciting time for women’s football in this country and I can’t wait to see what the game will be like a decade from now.
The win last night will not only positively affect the women’s game at the elite level, but at grassroots level too. With the visibility and exposure, young girls across the country will now have role models who they can look up to and aspire to be one day. I coach girls football teams of all ages at grassroots clubs and seeing the Lionesses achieve their dreams last night will no doubt inspire them to chase theirs.
It’s been incredible to see the support across the country for the Euros. I saw this morning that the final last night was the most viewed TV programme of 2022 – more than the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee!
A record-breaking 17 million viewers tuned in on BBC One with a further six million viewers streaming the game online. I really hope those viewing figures translate to more people going down to support their local women’s team - whether they are in in the Women’s Super League, Women’s Championship or tier six of the women’s football pyramid.
We play our first game of the new WSL season on Saturday 10 September against Manchester United at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and there’s no better feeling than stepping out on that pitch. I really hope the momentum keeps going from the Euros and we see a record crowd at the stadium supporting the women’s game.
I also hope these figures will transfer to a grassroots level with more young girls playing football across the country. A legacy must be created now after the success of the Lionesses and like Ian Wright said - if girls football isn’t available at every single school across the country after the success of this tournament we are doing something wrong! To every little girl reading this who wants to be a footballer, there’s nothing stopping you.
I could write all day about England winning the Euros, but I would like to dedicate my final words to the England players of the past who have paved the way for the current Lionesses to achieve their success. The likes of Kelly Smith, Faye White, Rachel Yankey, Hope Powell, Fara Williams, Mary Phillip, Karen Carney, Laura Bassett…too many names to mention.
These are some of the women who are the pioneers in the women’s game. They sacrificed so much when the basic needs for women’s footballers weren’t met. They broke down so many barriers and built a platform which every player in the league today is benefitting from. These incredible women have been through some heartache when wearing an England shirt and for them to finally experience the highs of an England team winning the Euros must have meant so much. That win last night was for you ladies!
All that is left for me to say is…IT FINALLY CAME HOME!