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What has the World Cup done for women

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England reached the World Cup semi-finals and have qualified a British team for the 2020 Olympics

England failed to achieve their target of winning the World Cup after a semi-final defeat by the United States but the impact they have made on the British public has surpassed expectation.

Prior to the tournament, the record UK TV audience for a women’s football match was four million, but that mark has been broken four times in France, culminating in a peak of 11.7 million for the loss to the world’s number one team last Tuesday.

Phil Neville’s team are eager to forge a path for future generations and Chelsea boss Emma Hayes says their run has ensured a “sizable shift” in the perception of women’s football.

The potential to make further gains is enormous, particularly since the Lionesses’ fourth-placed finish ensured there will be a Great Britain football team at the 2020 Olympics, before Euro 2021 is staged in England.

But is women’s football able to capitalise and bring an increased level of attention to the domestic game?

England’s quarter-final against Norway was shown at Glastonbury

How the landscape changed at the 2019 World Cup

It’s not only in England where TV audiences have boomed during the World Cup.

Despite poor attendances at the games, TV records have been broken across the globe, including in France, the United States, Germany and China.

Almost 59 million people watched Brazil’s last-16 game against the hosts, making it the most watched women’s football match of all time.

Unprecedented levels of media coverage have helped draw in new fans; 62 countries held TV rights to broadcast the tournament compared with 37 in 2015; dozens of members of the British media have been in France, far more than were in Canada four years ago.

“This World Cup has felt different,” Hayes told 5 Live’s Football Daily podcast. “We’ve grown up in a country where women’s football has been kept to one side, and it hasn’t been a part of the masses and it hasn’t dominated numbers in terms of audience figures and press coverage. The interest now is above and beyond what we’ve ever seen.”

Who knows how much those numbers would have grown had England made it to the final, or even won their first tournament?

It may feel like a missed opportunity in that regard, but with the 2020 Olympics and Euros on the horizon the international game looks like as if will be in good health.

Translating that to the domestic game is the big challenge, but the Football Association says it has been planning for this moment.

“We knew that the World Cup was going to be big,” said Marzena Bogdanowicz, the FA’s head of commercial and marketing for women’s football. “Unlike in 2015 [in Canada], this World Cup has been in the same time zone as England and at Euro 2017, we already started to see and feel something different.

“We have been talking about a tipping point since last November. There was a wave coming and we knew we had to be ready.”

During the World Cup, a mural of England striker Ellen White in her “goggles” celebration pose was painted at the end of Aylesbury’s High Street

Is women’s football ready to capitalise?

The problem in the past is that once the euphoria of a major tournament has died down, people return to their normal habits and almost forget that women’s football exists on a domestic level.

In 2015, after England finished third, there was an initial bounce in domestic attendances, helped by a summer league that resumed a few weeks after the World Cup.

But there is now a wait until the Women’s Super League winter season starts in September, by which time the Premier League campaign will have started, occupying the attention of many of the journalists who were out in France.

Yet for lots of reasons, women’s football is already starting from a better place than four years ago.

Despite West Ham skipper Gilly Flaherty saying she still has to buy her own boots