Lisa Nandy MP: Lionesses' win is opportunity to create lasting legacy
England’s Lionesses victory against Germany on Sunday was the perfect ending to an amazinglyentertaining Women’s Euro 2022 tournament.
The whole team did themselves and the nation proud and have inspired an interest in the women’s game that has never been seen before.
The challenge now is to turn the current achievements of the Lionesses into a lasting legacy for women’s football.
The development of women’s football in recent years has been remarkable.
Over 87,000 fans attended the final at Wembley - the biggest ever attendance for any men’s or women’s Euros match - while a staggering 17.4 million watched the final on TV.
Across the tournament attendance was over 570,000 more than doubling the previous record set in 2017.
It is now the top participation sport for women and girls in England and the development of the Women’s Super League has seen crowd attendances and TV audiences soar.
Of course, Wigan Borough played its part in the success of the tournament with Leigh Sports Village hosting four matches and welcoming thousands of fans from across Europe to our area.
The stunning first goal in the final was scored by Ella Toone, who is from Tyldesley and had her introduction to football at Astley & Tyldesley
The growth of the women’s game is even more astonishing when we consider that it was only in 1971 that the Football Association lifted its
ridiculous ban on women using FA pitches.
Yet despite the positives there are still barriers preventing the women’s game closing the gap with the men’s.
In Wigan only 69% of schools support equal access to football for girls in PE and just 51% in after school activities.
There are so many talented girls in Wigan but there isn’t the same infrastructure of academies and scholarships to boost them into the top-flight.
Even when women reach the top, the gap between wages and facilities for our top male and female professionals remains huge.
Locally, as part of the women’s Euro 2022 legacy programme for host towns and cities, Wigan Council, Lancashire FA and local organisations such
as the Wigan Athletic Community Trust are aiming to transform women and girls participation in football in our borough.
Plans are in place to increase the number of schools delivering girls football within – and beyond – the curriculum and improve opportunities for
all women and girls to play football where and how they wish.
The programme has a target of having 11,500 more women and girls playing football in schools and clubs in our borough by 2024.
Nationally the Government has promised a specific review of the women’s game to look at how participation and investment in the game can be improved and the gap with the men’s game reduced.
Unfortunately, we have seen little progress on this so far but if ever there was a moment to seize this issue this is it.
The skill and spirit of the Lionesses this summer has inspired millions.
We owe it to them to take this once in a generation opportunity to transform the women’s game forever.