"The legacy of the tournament was already made before that final game - what we've done for women and young girls who can look up and aspire to be us…. we've changed the game in this country"
On the last Sunday in July 2022, women's football in Britain hopefully changed forever. Over 17 million watched on TV and a record-breaking 87,000 cheered at Wembley to see England women overcome the 8-time winners Germany.
The atmosphere was one of celebration, families together sharing memories in stark contrast to the men's final last year which descended into chaotic scenes. With the win came a victory not only on the pitch but one of vindication and liberation, after being banned to play football from 1921 for 51 years until 1972.
The reason? The establishment was worried as the women's game was growing and attendances at games were greater than the men's.
Gail Newsham, the author of a book on the Dick, Kerr Ladies, believes the record-breaking Boxing Day match, which followed games watched by more than 35,000 at Old Trafford and 25,000 at Deepdale, was instrumental.
“The Goodison match would have sent a seismic shock throughout the football world, because so many people went to that match. We must remember that in 1920 they had expanded the men’s leagues – there was a new Division Three, North and South – so they had practically doubled the amount of clubs and all these people are going to watch women’s football as opposed to men’s football. There was going to be a conflict at some stage, wasn’t there?
“The Goodison match acted as a wake-up call. The FA then started stepping in to make it more difficult for clubs to let the grounds to women’s teams. Teams and clubs had to supply statements of accounts after every game and they couldn’t play without permission from the FA. They were putting obstacles in the way throughout 1921. Then came 5 December, when they dealt the fatal blow and banned them from playing.”
So many of the current side have said that the victory isn't just for the squad, the nation, it's for the trailblazers who came before. Those who had to hold down a job whilst competing at the highest level, broke barriers and ignored the doubters who told them it wouldn't work and it just would not appeal to the public.
They were wrong and England goal scorer Ella Toone summed it up "That's what we set out to do in this tournament - make the nation proud, fight for women and get young girls involved as well and I think we've done that”
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Featured image: Dick, Kerr Ladies FC before a game in Rhode Island during their 1922 North American tour. Photograph: ullstein bild/Getty Images