Lianne Sanderson is a former England star who knows more than a thing or two about the national team, the trials and tribulations of women’s football and what has to happen next for the game to continue progressing.
Women’s football is back on the national consciousness this year thanks to the increased TV coverage and awareness which will peak during the summer when the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 tournament kicks off in July.
But even this evening we will see women’s football pick up increased coverage thanks to the Arnold Clark Cup as England face Germany, with the inaugural competition bringing together four of the top ranked teams in the World for a round-robin tournament in Women’s football.
America’s SheBelieves Cup is a tournament of a similar ilk but is now being contested with the current success of the Arnold Clark Cup.
While America is playing Iceland, the Czech Republic and New Zealand all ranked 17th or lower, England is hosting the third, sixth and ninth best teams in the world.
Women’s football is becoming increasingly popular since Lucy Bronze shone at the 2019 World Cup and last year saw Sky Sports announce they would show over 30 live games in the 2021/22 season and this contract would last for at least three years.
However, there is still much more to be done for Women and Men’s football to be even placed within the same sphere as each other.
Former Arsenal and England footballer Sanderson believes that while a phenomenal amount of change has already taken place in making the Women’s game a more successful and opportune place to be, franchises must now look to increasing the attendance of WSL games on a substantial and consistent level in order to continue striving for parity.
Talking on behalf of bettingexpert, Sanderson spoke exclusively to NationalWorld saying: “Now there’s more radio coverage, TV coverage, it’s fantastic. People used to say to me, where do you think the Women’s game is going to be in five to ten years and I never dreamed it would be where it is now.
“There is still a long way to go. I would like to see more fans coming consistently to the games. I’m not talking 2,000, I want to see 20,000.
“We’re at the point where we can sell out stadiums but it’s about promotion and I think the fact that there’s more publicity now makes a difference.
“We have to realise the value and the product we are putting on offer now. Gone are the days where you come for free or you only pay £1”
The 34-year-old former forward signed for Arsenal FC when she was just nine years old and went onto become part of their youth programme.
She played her first full season in 2003/04 and went on to feature in the 2006 FA Women’s Cup final, earning herself player of the match in the Gunners 5-0 win over Leeds United.
In 2006, Sanderson was called up to the England first team and went on to play 50 caps for her country as well as scoring 15 goals, including the goal that won England the 2015 Cyprus Cup.
Following her 12-year stint at Arsenal, Sanderson spent a lot of her later career in the States playing for teams such as Philadelphia Independence, DC United and Orlando Pride, and this career shift across the ocean is not unusual for female footballers.
America has phenomenal training facilities geared towards women’s football and did have one of the best leagues in the World before the WSL came into action.
However, the Arnold Clark Cup and growing popularity of the WSL are showing that America is not the only place fit for Women’s football.
Sanderson continued: “The Arnold Clark Cup right now, the competition is definitely better. I would imagine that America is seeing this competition and I imagine the USA would rather be playing against the top teams. Canada, Spain, Germany, this is how the SheBelieves Cup usually is.
“Obviously (The Arnold Clark Cup) is in its first year but I think it’s going to be the first of many because all teams now have to have that quality of competition.
“The WSL now, I don’t think there’s a better league in the world. I wouldn’t have said that a few years ago.
“You’re seeing fewer players leave England. Players are now seeing that you can play in England and any team can beat anyone on any given day.”
Unfortunately for Sanderson, her England career was not all glitz and glamour, and as a result does not spend as much time working within Women’s football as people may expect. The former Arsenal striker received little, if any, acclaim when she gained her 50th Cap and often noted how players had to ‘conform’ to the FA.
A massive upheaval had to be experienced in order for this conformity to shift, and while it upsettingly came at the cost of Sanderson, she lives in hope that her experience will mean no one else has to go through the same thing.
“Unfortunately it took something like what I went through to change things and unfortunately it takes something drastic to happen for people to wake up because, now there is more recognition for players who have retired, there’s more recognition for players like myself who have put themselves out there and others will reap the benefits from that, and I’m OK with that. But that’s the reality," Sanderson admitted.
“I still think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. There’s a lot of people who realised they were wrong but whether they changed or not I don’t know.
“Hopefully, I have seen a change with regards to them respecting players who have done things in the past but there are still players even before myself who feel that they have been forgotten about and that’s not nice.
“Even to this day, the whole 50th Cap situation does hurt me and that’s why I don’t work in Women’s Football as much as people expect me to because I feel hurt a lot by Women’s Football.
“Hopefully what happened to me will never happen to someone else because I wouldn’t want them to feel what I felt.”
With one match left to go in the Arnold Clark Cup Competition, England will hope to achieve their first win of the tournament as they take on Germany.
Sanderson added: "We’ve gone past that point of not being able to beat Germany. It was a massive weight over our shoulders when we beat them for the Bronze Medal in 2015.
“If (Sarina Wiegman) picks the right team we can win the game, but if she starts trying out players in different positions...then it will be more difficult.
“A lot of people have written Germany off but you can’t write of Germany, they are historically known for winning. I’m going to go with 2-1 England - I don’t want another draw!”
A message from the editor:
Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.