History was made on Sunday 31 July 2022: For the first time in 56 years English football was able to celebrate winning silverware when the Lionesses did the unimaginable.
After a tournament that has seen England score the highest number of goals while conceding the fewest as well as a tournament that has seen record numbers attending, the England women’s football team lifted the Women’s Euros trophy.
Not only was this the first major trophy England’s Women have ever won but it was the first piece of silverware that England have won since that iconic day back in 1966.
The question now begs, what’s next for Women’s Football?
It was a far too depressing reality to be hit with that on a day when the history books were being written and the Lionesses were becoming world class heroines, that when I requested to watch the match on one of many available screens at a local pub, I overheard a local say ‘that’s not football’.
Well, I’m not entirely sure what else it would be, but clearly my earlier question has been answered.
Despite the Lionesses being able to achieve what their male counterparts have not for the past half a century, we are still in an environment where it is a common theme to believe that it simply is not the same game.
As was devastatingly predictable, Twitter enjoyed its own misogynist and bigoted storm too but while its easy to ignore those infamous keyboard warriors who hide behind fake accounts, it's much harder to ignore those who voice it in public (and what used to be safer places) such as one’s local watering hole.
However, this will not be what the Lionesses focus on from now. They do not need to prove whether they play a real sport or not.
What they can focus on, however, is showing just how big this game has become and how much further they can push it.
When England beat Sweden in the semi final, former Lioness and now pundit Alex Scott explained how many stadiums turned down the opportunity to host the Women’s Euros when it was being organised back in 2018.
The former Arsenal defender said: “So many people said No, I hope you’re all looking at yourselves right now because you weren’t brave enough to see what it could have been.”
The FA were slammed for not having stadiums with bigger capacities for the Women’s Euros matches and if anyone were in any doubt that these larger seater stadiums were required, then let’s just remind ourselves that Wembley saw the biggest turnout for any Euros tournament ever, in both the men and women’s game.
Over 87,000 turned up to watch England beat Germany 2-1 and now we’re seeing Anfield, Stamford Bridge and Tottenham's stadiums lining up to host Women’s Super League matches rather than leaving it to the secondary, smaller grounds to host as is usually the case.
When we talk about progress in the Women’s game, and what we want to see as a result of such a triumphant tournament, this is what we mean: equal opportunities, such as the WSL teams being able to use the same spaces and facilities as their male counterparts.
At present, it only appears a few of these bigger stadiums are being made available for the WSL but as a starting point, it is not a bad one from which to expand and develop.
The far more pressing and segregating gap however is in pay.
According to the PFSA, the average Premier League salary is £60,000 a week meanwhile the average in the WSL is currently standing at £30,000 a year.
With the historic and long-standing lack of exposure this is far from surprising. Many male footballers will receive fast sums in endorsements from brands such as Nike, Reebok and Adidas, while this cannot be the same for the women (at least not yet) who do not enjoy the same publicity and broadcasting visibility.
However, as 87,000 people came to Wembley on Sunday afternoon with a further 17.4 million tuning in to BBC One to watch it, this argument is fast fading away and a new generation of sporting superstars have emerged.
The Lionesses have not just been celebrating winning a tournament, they have been celebrating what that win represents and what their triumphs throughout the whole competition will lead to, not just in women’s football, but in representation of women in sport.
As England captain Leah Williamson pointed out: “This hasn’t just been a change for women’s football, but society in general. Tomorrow is not the end of a journey, but the start of one.”