Lionesses captain Leah Williamson has emphasised that Euro 2022 should be viewed as the start of England and women’s football’s journey, emphasising the impact the team’s success can have on gender equality in wider society.
England face Germany at a sold out Wembley Stadium in the Euro 2022 final on Sunday, with the Lionesses vying to lift their maiden piece of silverware.
The tournament on home soil and success of the Lionesses have swept the attention of the nation, with a peak audience of 9.3m tuning in for England’s semi final victory over Sweden, and a women’s Euros record crowd of 68,781 in attendance for their opening game against Austria at Old Trafford.
Ahead of the final, cumulative attendance is already at 487,683, more than double the previous Women’s European Championship record set five years ago at Euro 2017. With a sell out crowd expected at Wembley, total attendance could exceed 570,000.
“I think what we’ve seen in the tournament already is this hasn’t just been a change for women’s football but society in general; how we’re looked upon,” Williamson said. “Tomorrow is not the end of a journey but the start of one.
“I think regardless of the end result of that game there’ll be a nice moment for reflection. Naturally it’s my job to go out for 90 minutes to play and win but I think when we look back on this tournament on a whole, we’ve really started something and I think tomorrow is the start of that. I want this to be a start, I want this to be a mark for the future not looking back on what’s gone before.”
England last reached a major women’s final at Euro 2009, when the final alone was the only fixture shown on terrestrial television. The landscape of the game has changed dramatically in the intervening 13 years, and Williamson emphasised that the impact of England’s success extended beyond women’s football, and to gender equality in society in general.
“I’ve only ever been involved in this workplace in football but I think in workplaces across the world women still have a few more battles to face and to try and overcome,” the England captain added.
“I think for every success that we make and every change of judgement or perception or opening the eyes of somebody who views women as someone with the potential to be equal to their male counterpart, that makes change in society.
“That’s a powerful message we have the power to [spread] in a typically male dominated environment. These strides that we take forward can impact everybody on a wider scale.”