The FA Women’s Super League 2 – a new division within the Premier League that kicks off this weekend – is a high-profile new initiative to change the way women’s football is viewed in the UK. Representing about 1.5 per cent of the men’s league, the competition has seen a committed, gender-balanced set of participants in a bid to provide England’s brightest women players with a competitive environment that will give them the best opportunity of furthering their careers. As part of a discussion at Guardian HQ, the likes of Wayne Rooney’s England teammate Jill Scott, Everton’s Eniola Aluko and Burnley’s Jordan Nobbs – two of the most visible players in the top division – discussed how they expected the new competition to offer more of a platform to “normalise” women’s football and challenge the idea that women are playing second fiddle to men in their home countries.
“I want to play in Europe and play against the best,” said Scott. “I want to become the best that I can be and I want to make this league more credible. I want us to be on a par with the men’s Premier League. I love the fact that it’s taking off this year. It’s the first time we have played all around the UK, and people are coming to watch us.”
One thing to keep in mind as we look ahead is that women’s football may be on the cusp of something more than a nice domestic competition and the news coverage we’ve had so far has been disappointing. At the top of the FA Women’s Super League season ticket sales were falling behind the men’s top flight. In other words, women fans don’t seem to be subscribing to the league. No shame, we get it, come back in three years. And these players are leaving the game (like Scott) in their peak for a highly lucrative string of endorsements.
But a wealth of talented, dedicated players are going abroad in pursuit of their game, because women’s football doesn’t have a big enough structure in the west to make it a viable career for them. Something needs to change. To find out more about what is happening in Europe, watch the video above.