Certain signs do not deceive: the DailyMirror, a popular British tabloid, has published a 48-page special featuring the Women’s World Cup, which kicked off on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand. Already in May, no less than 77,000 spectators were present at Wembley Stadium in London for the final of the Women’s FA Cup. Another notable indication: during the 2022-2023 season, 15.3 million Britons watched at least three minutes live from the women’s championship… Still denigrated in the early 2010s, women’s football has now seriously taken off in England when the national team enters the World Cup against Haiti on Saturday July 22 at 11:30 a.m. (Paris time).
In 2018, the twelve teams of the Women’s Super League (WSL, the English first division), officially turned professional. Some competition is emerging in the broadcasting of matches, with Sky taking over the rights from BT Sport in 2021. In 2022, the England team – nicknamed the ‘Lionesses’ – won the Euros on their soil. In a country that considers itself the inventor of football, but whose men’s national team hasn’t won anything since the 1966 World Cup, this victory was the subject of massive media treatment, even if popular enthusiasm remained far from the quadrennial drama played during the Men’s World Cup.
“But, if we scratch below the surface”corrects ex-player Karen Carney, the reality of women’s football is less glorious: as “Instagram versus reality”. The image is beautiful, but the daily life of clubs and players is much less glamorous. This former football star (144 caps for the national team between 2005 and 2019), now a television commentator, has just submitted to the British government a report both full of hope and very harsh on the current state of his discipline. “Despite recent optimism and success, women’s football remains in a financially very vulnerable start-up phase”she wrote.
No coherent economic model yet
Mme Carney begins by recalling the daily reality of female players. In WSL, their average salary is around 25,000 pounds (about 29,000 euros) per year, according to the FinancialTimes, against… three million for men. In the second division, the teams remain semi-professional, with some footballers earning less than 5,000 pounds a year, continuing to juggle several jobs at the same time.
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