Juventus forward Eniola Aluko is convinced women’s football will soar to another level if England Lionesses win the World Cup.
Hosts France launch the 2019 Women’s World Cup in Paris on June 7 when they take on South Korea, while England play Scotland in their opening group match in Nice two days later.
Former Chelsea forward Aluko, 33, has just completed a league and cup double in her first season with Juventus and scored 33 goals in 102 games for England.
“If (holders) USA win it, it will be a continuation of their dominance, but I think if England win it, it’s going to be a game-changer,” Aluko told Press Association Sport.
“The game in England will go to another level. There would be huge media attention and it would be massive in the UK.
“It will have a knock-on effect, I think, that would take the FA Women’s Super League to another level, that will establish it as the best league in the world.
“The FAWSL is already attracting some of the top players in the world, but if England win the World Cup there would be more investment, more investment in the infrastructure, more clubs will want to invest in their women’s teams and the best players will want to come to England.”
Record-breaking attendances, major sponsorship deals and increasing levels of coverage have helped transform women’s football this year and Aluko believes the 2019 World Cup will elevate it further.
A crowd of 60,739 saw Barcelona win 2-0 against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in March – a record for a domestic women’s game in Europe – and in the same month Juventus beat Fiorentina 1-0 in front of nearly 40,000 at the Allianz Arena.
“I think it’s going to be another watershed in a long line of watersheds that we’ve had this year,” said Aluko, who joined Juventus from Chelsea in June 2018.
“Those attendances were huge watershed moments and you’ve got big sponsorship coming into the women’s game in England, big brand campaigns with players.
“Nike’s announcement on England’s World Cup kit is just an example of what brands are doing now.
“So I think the World Cup is just going to be a continuation of what is a huge wave.”
Aluko has contributed to a 50-page report on the women’s game, the WorldAtTheirFeet, launched on Wednesday by US-based public relations company Burson Cohn & Wolfe.
The report concluded that women’s football is making rapid progress, but big obstacles still stand in its way.
Although the game’s fanbase is expanding, gate receipts in national leagues still remain too low for most clubs to be self-sustainable, the report said, and investment in infrastructure, pitch quality, academies and the grassroots game remains “relatively weak”.
Aluko, who will be working as a pundit for US television network Fox during the World Cup, said big brands are key to the future success of the women’s game.
“I know Manchester United are investing heavily,” she added. “I firmly believe the only way women’s football is going to keep growing is if these big clubs have a one-club mentality towards women and men in the same club and Manchester United is a perfect example of that.”
* Aluko’s thought-provoking memoir, They Don’t Teach This, in which she explores themes of dual nationality and identity, growth of women’s football, success, failure and faith is being published by Penguin Random House and will be released on August 29.News Now - Sport News