The Lionesses, who ended their nation’s 56-year wait for silverware, have returned to their clubs and will hope to see increased support from fans following their fairytale summer.
Manchester City and England defender Demi Stokes has reminisced on how Euro 2022 attracted more eyes onto the women’s game and changed the tide of the sport.
Euro 2022 heroics
Stokes described the summer as “a whirlwind” and admitted the magnitude of England’s achievement still hasn’t sunk in.
The Lionesses beat eight-time European champions Germany back in July to win their first major trophy and cement their names in English folklore.
Stokes reflected on how it felt as though the team was “in a bubble” throughout the entire tournament and the players only realised the level of support behind them once they stepped out in front of a record Wembley crowd.
“Me, Jill [Scott] and [Lauren] Hemp needed to nip out to Boots and every five steps someone was like ‘well done,’ or ‘we watched the game’,” she laughed as she spoke to GiveMeSport Women.
“I think because we had been in such a bubble that we thought we would just go back to our normal life.
“I remember winning and in my head I just kept saying… ‘what is going on?’
“It was a very English response, we just didn’t know what to do. We said we were going to do something and we set out and did it, but in the manner that we did — we couldn’t have written it.”
It was England’s meeting with Spain in the quarter-finals that really made Stokes and the rest of the camp pay attention to how much was at stake. After a goalless first half, the Lionesses went 1-0 down in the 54th minute and tensions immediately soared.
But a late equaliser from Ella Toone and an extra time goal from Georgia Stanway ensured the home side’s ticket into the semi-finals and, well, everyone knows what happened after that.
Euro 2022 brought in new levels of support and introduced new fans to women’s football. Since the final, record numbers of Women’s Super League season tickets have been sold and supporters can get excited over heading to iconic grounds like Old Trafford, Anfield and the Emirates to watch the teams in action.
For Stokes, the moment she realised a tide had shifted was hearing of the amount of people who watched matches at home and in the pub with friends.
“It was the norm that they were going to the pub to go and watch our games and that obviously wasn’t heard of even five years ago. It’s little things like that where you can actually see a shift and I’m not surprised because football is football and that’s what I’ve always said.
“If you love the game, you will watch anything.”
As well as having record numbers of eyes on the women’s game, Stokes is glad that England have created a ripple effect which is inspiring new generations of players by encouraging younger girls to take up the sport.
Tackling hate with Hope United
Stokes is part of the EE Hope United movement — a team of professional footballers helping to tackle online sexist hate.
The Man City star is joined by her former teammates Ellen White and Lucy Bronze, as well as other high profile players including Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, as well as Declan Rice and Michail Antonio of West Ham.
“It’s massive that we’ve got people like Trent and Henderson on board because I think some people may think that because they’re men, it doesn’t bother them and it isn’t their problem.
“When actually, it’s more their problem than ours because they can actually make a change.
“I always touch on that if it was your mum or your daughter or whoever, you wouldn’t be happy with it. So you have to try and think of it that way in that, it might not be directly at you but you wouldn’t want your daughter coming home from school saying ‘someone has said this to me’.”
A recent YouGov survey revealed that 52 per cent of the UK public feel the internet is not a safe space for women, while 60 per cent of the UK believe more should be done in order to tackle online hate.
Stokes stressed the importance of providing an environment for children to grow up feeling safe and included while also providing them with the tools to help understand and avoid online hate.
The return of the WSL, following on from Euro 2022, will hopefully see more young girls feel like they belong in football.
EE Hope United is rallying the UK to tackle online sexist hate as part of EE’s commitment to digitally upskill the nation. Visit ee.co.uk/hopeunited