Chelsea Ladies lifted the FA Cup triumphantly this week as they beat Notts County Ladies in a 1-0 victory. Whilst it was a hotly contended final, Chelsea Ladies proved why they deserved their first piece of silverware.
In fact, Chelsea Ladies had only conceded one goal throughout the tournament and their defence rivalled their male counterparts. Their defence is not their only asset though, as current PFA women’s player of the year, Ji So-Yun and England striker Eniola Aluko lead from the front.
After only being formed 18 months ago, Notts County Ladies have proved to be a formidable team in the tournament. The Magpies however, captained by England defender Laura Bassett, struggled to cope with Chelsea’s attacking threat and to make use of their own possession.
South Korea striker Ji So-Yun scored from close range in the 37th minute with the opportunity created by woman of the match, Eniola Aluko. The goal was a result of a relentless ten minute spell for Chelsea which Notts County failed to contain.
A late resurgence from the Magpies saw Leanne Crichton’s header cleared from the line by Chelsea, which was their best shot on goal.
— Marija Banušić (@maredinho) August 1, 2015
It proved to be a huge occasion for both teams and women’s football in general, as the final was played in the national stadium for the first time in history. The new setting and the generated interest from the World Cup saw a record crowd supporting the two teams at Wembley.
The 30,710 strong crowd was double the number from last year’s FA Cup final clash at Stadium MK, and the first time this decade that women’s football has attracted more than 20,000 fans. In fact, this year’s crowd had exceeded the 2008 attendance record of 24,582.
There is no doubt in my mind that this year’s World Cup has done wonders for English football. In fact the viewing figures speak for themselves. Over 12 million people tuned in to watch the late night clashes in Canada which saw the Lionesses take third place in the tournament.
To show their commitment to improving and promoting the female game, the FA has announced a £3.7 million investment with Sport England in order to increase female participation in football by July 2016. This is part of a scheme that was launched in 2013 which aimed to get 40,000 females to start and continue playing football.
Retention tends to be the issue in participation schemes but in two years, the programme has already attracted over 40,000 females and this number is expected to increase going into the third year.
There is however, more work to be done. It was reported this week that Notts County Ladies will probably lose money from their entry in the FA Cup. The Magpies have covered the costs of hosting two rounds themselves and were only partly subsidised for travel and accommodation.
Even if they had won the final, the prize money of £8,600, compared to the men’s prize money of £1.8 million, would have contributed to a financial loss for the club. Women’s teams do not receive a direct share of TV revenue either.
Even though women’s football is finally getting the recognition it so rightfully deserves, I hope the FA will open its eyes to the inequality our players are still facing and to the changing public perception.