Lionesses poised to change the English game forever

LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) – England’s lionesses have the chance to change football in the country forever when they take on Germany in the final of the Women’s Euro 2022 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

So says former England international Karen Carney, who scored the last time she reached the Euro final when she suffered a 6-2 defeat by Germany in 2009.

Women’s football in England has changed beyond recognition since that sobering loss in the half-empty Helsinki Olympic Stadium to a side Germany years ahead in development.

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Back then, most nursing home residents in England were part-time, often having to take time off work to exercise, and most could walk through a crowded shopping center unnoticed.

Media coverage was almost non-existent.

No longer.

The ultra-professional team of Sarina Wiegman is quickly becoming a household name as the country is captivated by the skill and intensity of their football and their positive vibes both on and off the field.

This week’s 4-0 semi-final win over Sweden was watched by a peak BBC TV audience of 9.3million viewers and that will certainly be shattered on Sunday as the Lionesses attempt to become the first English team in 56 years to win a major trophy to win.

“In the 13 years since that final, the game in England has changed incredibly,” Carney, who has built a career as a regular pundit on men’s football, told The Guardian.

“Players no longer have to train in the park or go to the gym in their spare time – they are professionals. Back then, only a handful of players who went to America were full-time, myself included.

“Now all the players are professionals and the Women’s Super League, which helped change the landscape, is one of the best competitions in the world.”

All of England’s top clubs have now jumped on the bandwagon and players who once had to seek opportunities abroad can now make big money at home.

Lucy Bronze has already signed sponsorship deals with Nike and Visa and players like top scorer Beth Mead, who plays for Arsenal, and Manchester United’s Alessia Russo will be scrambling for brands to sign them.

England’s players are reportedly in line for around £55,000 ($66,913) in bonuses if they win the title, but it’s impossible to estimate the impact this would have on women’s football in a country where its potential is still untapped.

“Everything is going up in terms of records being broken, from crowds at the grounds to the number of eyeballs at games to grassroots attendance,” said Gabby Logan, who has moderated the BBC’s coverage .

“If you look at it as a chart, it’s only going up and it feels like it could be, as they say in business jargon, a hockey stick moment.”

There’s an argument that even if England can’t beat record-breaking eight-time European champions Germany in front of a full house at Wembley, the Lionesses have already lit the sport’s blue touchpaper to take it to another level.

However, the victory would spark wild celebrations across the country.

“Those are the moments that make memories and the final is definitely special as it’s England versus Germany,” said Carney. “I’m not sure there’s anything that can prepare the players for that.”

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Reporting by Martyn Herman Editing by Christian Radnedge

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