Arsenal’s Leah Williamson says she hasn’t felt that “women’s football has existed for the past four months”. The 23-year-old, who won the Arsenal Women’s supporter’s player of the season award for the 2019/20 season, in an interview to some British outlets, said:
“For the past four months it has felt as if women’s football doesn’t exist, and that’s a problem. It’s been a struggle.”
Arsenal Women last played on February 28 in the Continental Cup final against Chelsea, as the Women’s Super League season was ended with immediate effect at the start of June due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The fact that we are so easily cast aside when circumstances get tough is an issue,” added Williamson, “This is about women stepping out of tradition and doing what they want in any walk of life, let alone sport. But sport is such a good way to acknowledge that we are worth the same investment as our male counterparts, in every industry.
As attitudes change, I hope sport can lead the way on that.”
There are discussions about the Premier League taking over the Women’s Super League from the FA. Williamson feels that would “potentially” help secure the future of women’s football.
“I do think that something needs to change to propel us forwards. We don’t want a short-term fix, we want something that’s secure and stable and going to last for the next generation of women’s footballers,” she added.
“The FA did a great job and set goals about increasing participation. Now it has to be external, it’s no secret that most of the money in sport comes from sponsorship and marketing. We are missing external investors and the TV rights that men’s sport thrive off.”
Moreover, the Arsenal, and England, player went on to speak about the North London derby at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at the start of the 2019/20 season, as the Gunners won 2-0, and how seeing more women’s football on TV and female pundits helped. She said:
“It was unbelievable, I stepped out and I felt, ‘Wow, I’m a professional footballer’.
We’re at a level where people should be able to watch the women’s game in that big-stadium environment.
“Why would you ever think you could be something if you can’t see it? We are not going anywhere. The structure is there, the football is there. As long as people are brave and invest, the game will keep going and surprise us as much as it has already with its growth.
“People need to stop looking at us as second in line.”
Williamson is simply right; people should pay more attention and effort to the women’s game as its potential is the same or even bigger than the men’s game. It’s just up to the FA and the other federations, clubs, fans – all the people involved – to help women’s football develop and become something unique and magnificent. As Williamson concluded “whether it’s football, rugby or whatever, young girls need something to look up to.”