Women's Sports: Do we have your attention? A Women's Football Weekend Follow-Up

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Barclays FA Women's Super League

The morning of Sunday 17th, before the sell-out stadiums and record-breaking crowds, broadcaster Jacqui Oatley presented Sky Sports' Sunday Supplement, and amongst Premier League and England Men's conversation, put a question to her panel of male football journalists - is women's football here to stay?

Throughout the day, that same question rippled through the world of football as The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium welcomed a crowd of 38,262, Anfield hosted 23,500 and almost 5,000 made the trip to Kingsmeadow to watch Chelsea take on Manchester United. 

Looking at this weekend's figures, the easy answer to Oatley's question would be: yes.

However, the fate and future of female football heavily relies on members of the media to keep it from sinking. It's time for heads of organisations, outlets and broadcasters to sit up and pay attention because, quite frankly, everybody else already is.

Rewind to last Thursday and Give Me Sport Women were travelling to Enfield in North London - the home of Tottenham Hotspur's training ground. Spurs had scheduled in a press conference ahead of the first-ever WSL North London Derby and we were due to hear from managers Karen Hills and Juan Amoros. Ten organisations had confirmed their attendance with Tottenham's communications advisor. Nine were a no-show, leaving Spurs with no other option than to cancel.

We spoke of the cancellation on social media and were met with disappointment and confusion alongside excuses and resistance. This all seems to have been forgotten amid the flurry of record-breaking attendances, however, if we truly believe that women's football is here to stay, those in charge must be held to account. With most outlets only employing one women's football journalist, the game doesn't receive the coverage that it has worked so hard for.

My Sunday afternoon was spent in the Anfield press box, watching Liverpool try to claw back a point after a first-half spill from goalkeeper Anke Pruess left them 1-0 down to their Merseyside rivals. What struck me was the noise, the passion, the undivided interest and the raw rivalry - this derby had it all. It was the greatest answer to anyone that believes there's no demand for women's football, an argument that seems so irrelevant after 70,000 people battled against Sunday's wet, grey and miserable weather to go and watch a WSL game. 

Take a short trip over the Channel, and attendances are hotting up across Europe as well. On Saturday, over 30,000 people turned out to watch Lyon's 1-0 over PSG, and earlier this year crowds of around 60,000 attended Atletico Madrid v Barcelona. Alongside record-breaking numbers, the power of women's football has rippled through to the Spanish league. All eight top-flight fixtures were postponed this weekend as a result of a women's football strike over professional contracts, rights to minimum wages and measures for maternity, according to the BBC. The strike ended after they secured an agreement to reopen pay negotiations.

The events from this Women's Football Weekend have reiterated that the women's game is no longer reliant on the quality of play and interest - we have that in abundance. Instead, the women's game is crying out for more coverage and more support. This year we've had a sparkling World Cup and Women's Super League campaign, but we've also learnt that Crystal Palace's Gemma Bryan was left without help after an ACL injury, female Spanish players have to fight for fair working conditions and there aren't enough journalists to cover a North London Derby press conference.

So, in answer to your question, Jacqui: Yes, women's football is here to stay. But only hard work, commitment and real change will determine that.

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