BY JULIEANN THOMAS

Last summer was amazing – it was so fun to watch the Lionesses win the EUROs, to witness them receive the support of the nation and succeed on such a large stage. It feels like there is momentum – women can move more centrally in British football culture now than ever before. It’s becoming more popular to support women’s teams, as seen with the increase in attendance at women’s matches. Sitting at my seat in Craven Cottage at a match during the EUROs, I listened to the group of men behind me talking about how exciting it was to watch the Lionesses, and everyone agreeing enthusiastically. They all had been watching, and women’s football became part of their discussions. On another scale, the Lionesses were given pitch priority at St. George’s Park over the men in preparation for the 2022 EUROs. More women’s matches are being played at the clubs’ premier stadiums. Progress is being made and we can celebrate it. I think that’s part of what is so exciting about Fulham Women playing at Craven Cottage – women are given a chance to move from the periphery to the centre, and it is successful. Women refereed matches at the Men’s World Cup. There is much to celebrate.

Yet, I spend a lot of time in parks, as one does when one has small children, and I watch the dynamics of kids playing together for various activities. And on the makeshift football pitch, there is much to improve, at least from what I am seeing. First, there are still rarely girls playing at my park. Perhaps in other places it’s different. I hope so. And second, if some do play, they are often given less influential roles and barely included in play. I feel like it reflects had been happening in most levels of football – women are included, but frequently relegated to the margins.

I see this with the lack of girls football teams for secondary schools, the difficulty women have in finding (safe) pitch times, with the (lack of) inclusion of women on organizational boards, as sportscasters, and even in semi and professional football, where women’s stadiums are literally on the outskirts of cities, making women’s matches harder to access. Yes, women are increasingly included in football, but often still confined to the margins. And sometimes it’s the little things that make women feel as if they are not welcome – from not having enough women’s toilets to minimal women’s merchandise in the team store to chants that objectify women. Some of these are easy fixes.

I love seeing what Fulham Football Club are doing to include more women – from Fulham FC Women playing at Craven Cottage to the work the FulhLillies are doing to make both men’s and women’s matches more accessible for all. I hope that this momentum continues through the Women’s World Cup and into the future. There is much to be done on many levels – investing in women’s sports makes financial sense. Involving more women on directorial boards helps organisations become more financially sustainable, and can be better for the environment. Choosing to chant less offensive chants instead of objectifying women. There is something for each of us to do.