On Sunday, more than two million people tuned in to watch the BBC’s Women’s Football Show, in a sign of growing confidence for women’s sport, despite a virtually invisible summer of competition.
The weekly programme, which features highlights and analysis of all the action from the Women’s Super League, returned to television screens at 8 PM evening, after the women’s top-flight restarted following a 194-day absence due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The viewing figures, later published on social media by broadcast production agency ‘Whisper TV’, which produces the programme, have allayed fears that the interest in women’s sport would disappear after the pandemic resulted in a ‘suspended’ summer across the female sporting landscape.
While Premier League football will make its comeback this weekend, and men’s Premiership rugby plus international and domestic cricket have also returned, women’s football, rugby and netball all had their seasons cancelled.
England’s women cricketers are set to resume international competition against the West Indies in a landmark five-match T20 series on September 26, when the female game will be shown on free-to-air TV for the first time since 1993. The Women’s FA Cup quarter-final between north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur will also be broadcast live on BBC 2 that same day, with kick-off at 5:15 PM.
The Women’s Super League was on an upwards trajectory before the pandemic hit, with a string of games staged at men’s Premier League grounds in a bid to capitalise on the momentum of last year’s World Cup in France. Eilidh Barbour, who presents the WFS (Women’s Football Show), hailed the viewing figures were “incredible” and a “further reflection of how much the Barclays FAWSL has grown over the decade and the continuing growth of the women’s game.”
Even after all the suspensions and struggles that the women’s game has suffered, whether it is in the UK or somewhere else in the world, it’s great to see that the interest that gain through the last World Cup’s edition still there. Now, as women’s sports is returning to the field, we’ll have to wait and see if this interest, with the help of the TV and sports associations, can continue its growing journey to become as equal and big as the men’s sports.