For the first time, Hope Powell players were able to get a glimpse of an unexpectedly exciting new horizon, as if the previously shuttered window had opened wide.
Bev Ward, a football association executive responsible for the tournament’s marketing and communication strategy, recalls that moment. “England was playing at Ewood Park in Euro 2005, but they couldn’t get there because the team bus was swung by fans along the approach road. Rachel Unitt, Rachel Yankey, Kelly. I remember Smith (a major player) saying it was the first time he saw a woman and a girl wearing a replica shirt with a name on her back.
“It gave them such an uplifting. They were able to see new possibilities. It was a really exciting watershed moment. The tournament is a big step for women’s games in England. I took a step forward. “
Seventeen years later, Ward and her FA colleague are preparing for another home final, but the landscape around 2022 euros has changed almost unrecognizable. “This is a really different approach,” says Ward, who is now Senior Manager of Host City. “I knew England wouldn’t cross the group stage in 2005, but I’m a little more optimistic today!”
At the beginning of the 21st century, many will be home to many international household names in 2022, fully professional, highly skilled, televised and boasting six-digit salaries. You may have had a hard time imagining. Few have noticed that pioneers, especially Powell and Kelly Simonz, and FA women’s game-inspiring directors, have laid the foundations for change over the years.
“In 2001, football overtook netball as the main sport of participation for girls,” says Ward. “In short, Euro 2005 was aimed at raising interest and creating a legacy.”
Performed in Blackburn, Blackpool, Manchester, Preston and Warrington, eight teams appeared. In the 2022 edition, it was half the number. England’s low-ranked part-timers beat Finland 3-2, Denmark and Sweden.
Ward worked overtime at Manchester Stadium to promote the host’s opening match with Finland and was rewarded with 29,092 spectators. This is a record of a women’s match in England. Stop time tip. “Everything was built around that first game and the excitement it created,” Ward recalls. “It was an incredible attendance.”
Home media coverage declined significantly as England left, but 21,105 saw Germany beat Norway 3-1 in the final at Ewood Park.
By that time, Lennart Johansson had set foot on things. “The company was able to take advantage of the sweaty, pretty girl playing in the rain,” said former Uefa president, who died in 2019. Ward sighed. He “wanted to pay a little more respect.”
Today, Johansson’s comments would have caused social media anger from his native Sweden to southern Africa, but in 2005 the anger proved to be limited.
Today’s complaints generally revolve around the location and size of a particular venue. Between England and Austria’s opening game at Old Trafford and the Wembley final, there will be matches on the south coast of London (Brighton and Southampton) and southeast of South Yorkshire (Brentford and Milton Canes) (Bramor Lane and Rotherham in Sheffield). It is done. And the most controversial is Manchester (Lee Sports Village and Manchester City Academy Stadiums).
Given that the Wembley-Old Trafford match sold out quickly, the tournament, destined to be the greatest in the history of the competition, is more ambitious and geographically balanced in stadium selection. Wasn’t it?
With over 400,000 tickets sold and over 96,000 supporters from 95 countries traveling to the UK, did the FA miss an open goal? “The city was invited by the host, but sadly no one from the northeast, midland, or southwest applied,” says Ward. “These tournaments are putting a lot of effort into the local government and grounds that meet Uefa standards are not always available in July. But we arrived at a great venue. Tickets. Sold out at every stage of release. Using Wembley in the finals was a leap of trust, but it was justified. “
Importantly, when Covid chose a one-year-delayed tournament stadium in 2018, the organizers were afraid of a lack of enthusiasm for games that did not include England. By the time the World Cup in France changed that perception in 2019, high-end, large-scale grounds such as Newcastle’s 52,000-seat St. James Park and Sunderland’s 49,000-seat Stadium of Light It was too late to secure.
Ward defends the decision to deploy both Manchester City Women’s Academy Stadiums. This will allow 4,700 fans to participate. There is also a slightly larger base at Manchester United’s counterpart, Lee Sports Village. “We wanted a packed house,” she says. “And I wanted to create a legacy fan base by promoting the rationale for WSL.”
The host of the 8 pm kick-off fills the major broadcast slots with TV viewers who promote revenue and interest essential to the permanent development of the game. “Uefa wants as many highlights as possible in this tournament. It’s broadcast around the world,” says Ward. Outside of London, we are well aware that many public transports are closed by the time the last whistle blows. “We have worked with the local community to organize special services to help people get home.”
As the original 2021 date approached and the blockade was beckoned, there was growing concern that behavior would recede in a closed room. “The postponement was the right decision,” says Ward. “Currently, fans come from far away from North America, but in Europe there is a lot of interest, especially from Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Belgium.”
Innovative partnerships with the Arts Council and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will host gallery exhibitions, dance displays and choral recitals. There is good reason to believe that Euro 2022 will be a brilliant celebration of life after lockdown, not just women’s football.