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Midweek Matters: Women’s Sport Week is the Ideal Platform to Show the Improvement in Women’s Football

In a new regular feature, Sport-Matters discusses the hot topics in sport from the start of the week, starting with Women’s Sport Week.

“It’s the one week in the year when the spotlight is shone on women, which I think is fantastic.”

These are the words used by Maggie Alphonsi, one of England’s most successful women’s rugby player, to describe Women’s Sport Week on her website.

There is no doubt that Alphonsi is right but the focus on women’s sport has increased greatly as a constant throughout the year, especially football.

In fact, Women’s Sport Week is timed perfectly with the Round of 32 in the Women’s Champions League 2016/2017, which is building in reputation itself.

For starters, Chelsea Ladies lost 3-0 to last year’s runners-up VfL Wolfsburg Ladies, but it was a game that was hosted at Stamford Bridge for the first time in their history.

The competition itself has increased in size with the number of teams competing growing from 51 in the 2010/2011 season to 59 this year.

Attendance averaged 3,009 across all 32 qualified teams in the 2015/2016 season with Twente getting 22,000 over two games for the top spot. There is clearly interest in the sport.

Whilst the interest at the top of the game is visible, there is evidence of football being played by more women across the country at all levels.

According to the FA, there are more than 147,000 female football players in the country which is a huge increase on the 10,400 from 1993. As well as this, 1.1 million girls are playing kickabout at school and at clubs.

This all means that there is more exposure of football to women, something the BBC made clear yesterday when they spoke to Chris Ramsey on his work at Maccabi Lions.

Alongside coaching at QPR, Ramsey coaches the women on Wednesday evenings and he said to the BBC he “just work(s) with the players in front of [him].”

There is a sense of neutrality from the video as the players say “[Ramsey] sees us as footballers”. Manisha Tailor, a stand-out player and coach for Maccabi Lions, is one to look out for in the future.

Hopefully the conversations continue when the spotlight is gone and, more importantly, that the next generation are inspired to take up sport.

Overall, football has recognised women’s increased participation for a long time but there is also work being done to increase its coverage and intake.

This is one of the issues being discussed in Women’s Sport Week by people far more qualified than myself! That’s the great thing about this week- as Alphonsi says, it gets women’s sport in the spotlight and everyone is talking about it.

Hopefully the conversations continue when the spotlight is gone and, more importantly, that the next generation are inspired to take up sport. Whether it’s going down to Stamford Bridge or Maccabi Lions, women’s football is happening everywhere and that’s fantastic!

And another thing… Women’s Rugby leads the way

At the beginning of the week, the RFU were proud to announce that women’s rugby participation has increased dramatically.

According to the BBC, 26,000 women are playing rugby in the country, overtaking the RFU’s target of 25,000 a year ahead of schedule.

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