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Roaring Success: The Lionesses’ Empowering Girls in Sports

Deputy Editor-in-Chief Kiren Graziano looks back at the England performance in this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Despite their devastating loss on 20 August 2023, the Lionesses have usurped every expectation this World Cup season. Although they triumphed last year in the Euros, the England team was not expected to do so well at the World Cup. Having never before made it to the final on the global stage, suffering losses against Japan and the United States in 2015 and 2019 respectively and with several major injuries, the Lionesses were not leading the pack into this World Cup season. 

Captain Leah Williamson, winger Beth Mead and attacking midfielder Fran Kirby were all left out of the squad for the tournament. With these major losses, the Lionesses had to level up their game. Keeper Mary Earps, who has consistently stepped up in crucial moments, and key goal scorers Lauren Hemp, Alessia Russo and Lauren James have been vital to the Lionesses success. Coach Sarina Wiegman is no newcomer to championships either. She has two UEFA Women’s Euro titles under her belt, including one with the Lionesses just last year, and has made it to the final of the last four international tournaments that she has managed in.

With a historic semi-final win against Australia’s Matildas, the Lionesses seemed to be on track to bring home the first World Cup trophy since 1966. Although they couldn’t seal the deal in the match against Spain, England certainly put up a fight, with an excellent penalty save from Mary Earps and fairly even possession against the usually ball-dominant Spain. The Lionesses didn’t manage to bring home the cup, but what they have done is just as important.

England’s impressive success in the past two years has inspired more investment and engagement in women’s sports. Just last year, after their win at the Euros, the players wrote an open letter to the government calling for equal access to sports in school for girls around the country. Stating that they were “inspiring young girls to play football, only for many to end up going to school and not being able to play”, the Lionesses asked the Prime Minister to “make it a priority to invest into girls’ football in schools, so that every girl has the choice”. In response to this call to action, the UK government has pledged £600 million towards equal athletics for girls in schools. They have set a new standards of requiring 2 hours a week of physical education for girls, as well as mandating equal access to sporting activities. 

In addition to bringing more investment into womens’ youth sports, the Lionesses are inspiring more girls to get into athletics in the first place. A survey of primary-school teachers has shown that the number who see girls play at break every day has risen from 22% in July 2022 to 32% in July 2023, and the number of primary schools with girls’ or mixed teams rose from 61% to 71%. The numbers don’t lie – the Lionesses are making a huge difference to girls’ sports in England. 

The visibility of the Lionesses in the past two years alone has been invaluable to encouraging young girls to get involved in football. Additionally, as they’ve shown with their open letter to the government, this England team understand their responsibility as role models for young female athletes. They are not content to just win on the pitch, but want to help make real improvements in girls’ sports too. Some things are more important than bringing home a trophy – the Lionesses are leading the pack in working towards an equal future for sport.

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