When hosts France take on South Korea at Le Parc des Princes this evening, it kicks off one of the most anticipated Women’s football tournaments ever, building on a spell of accelerated momentum for the game.
The tournament will be given widespread coverage in the UK, with it being broadcast on BBC and on TalkSport. We spoke to Soccer Saturday reporter Faye Carruthers, who will play a key role on TalkSport’s broadcasting team, about what it means to have such good coverage of the tournament, as well as how its legacy can be maximised in the England.
InsiderSport: What could a successful World Cup do to accelerate the exponential growth of the English Women’s Super League, in terms of both popularity and sponsorship opportunities?
Faye Carruthers: It would be huge – the Lionesses finished third in the 2015 World Cup which generated lots of interest, but because it was in Canada, there wasn’t the same amount of support as there will be with the tournament in France. The hype surrounding this year’s tournament is huge and with Nike creating bespoke kits for the squad, a number of player led sponsorship drives with Lucazade and Svarovski as well as Barclays becoming the headline sponsor for the WSL next year, the popularity and sponsorship opportunities are only going to grow.
InsiderSport: Why is it crucial for women’s football to have networks such as TalkSport giving the World Cup widespread coverage?
Faye Carruthers: Because no-one would expect talkSPORT to cover women’s football! It’s a game-changer. It’s traditionally only been given air-time by the BBC and now it’s on a national commercial radio station where it belongs and can reach a whole new audience who may not have had the opportunity to become immersed in the women’s game before. Nikita Parris is also a huge talkSPORT fan, she battles with her sister over the car radio and loves listening to Jason Cundy!
InsiderSport: How much of an impact could it have on the legacy of the tournament in this country, if this highly touted England team can bring home the cup?
Faye Carruthers: It would be amazing. We saw the huge surge in netball participation and sponsorship when the England Roses won Commonwealth Gold. Lionesses captain Steph Houghton told me they want to continue where England’s men left off in Russia in 2018 and if they get that kind of backing behind them and can actually bring home the World Cup trophy it would mark a huge turning point in the game.
InsiderSport: What needs to be done to organically increase the growth of women’s football in terms of fan base and participants?
Faye Carruthers: There is a lot being done already, but certainly in schools, it should be part of the curriculum that girls have the opportunity to play football and not just be given the traditional options of hockey and netball.
InsiderSport: Lastly, which players should we be looking out for at this Summer’s tournament? And which players will be key for the success of the Lionesses?
Faye Carruthers: There’s a fantastic mix of experience and young talent in this squad – Nikita Parris I already mentioned, she was the top scorer in the WSL last season for Manchester City and has just made the move to the Champions League winners Lyon where she’ll play with England right-back Lucy Bronze who Phil Neville says is the best player in the world – look out for those two along with Arsenal’s Beth Mead.