The 2000s were the most successful in the history of the Charlton Athletic Women’s Team. In 2003, the team reached the FA Cup Final, losing out 3-0 to Fulham. In 2004, the team finished runners up to Arsenal in the Premier League by just a single point and again finished runners in the FA Cup final, losing to an Arsenal team that completed the double. The consolation that season was winning the League Cup. In 2005, the team finally won the FA Cup and once again finished runners up in the Premier League to Arsenal. In 2006, the team again won the League Cup. In 2007, they were runners up in the FA Cup Final.
With the men’s team losing their Premier League status this put pressure on the club’s finances and the board required some £16m of immediate cuts to be made. The women’s team was sadly a victim of these cuts.
At that time, we all saw the potential for growth in the women’s game, but it never quite happened for a number of reasons. Attendances were low, there was little exposure for the game on TV and as a result sponsorship was minimal.
How things have changed in recent times!
The Women’s Super League is now shown on TV and as a result record levels of sponsorship are being attracted to the game and this exposure is seeing a dramatic increase in attendances.
The Women’s Euros is being covered live on TV and with record attendances, the women’s game is finally taking off in a way we all hoped it would back in the 2000s.
England’s first game against Austria attracted a crowd of 68,871 at Old Trafford. The atmosphere was brilliant and the songs, including ‘Sweet Caroline’, were great to hear.
England can play better but they won, which is key in the first match. If they are to win the tournament, they will need to improve but the support they are getting is going to be a big part.
My family will be at St Mary’s for the concluding group fixture against Northern Ireland on 14th July and let’s hope that is the game that confirms England as group winners.
Whatever happens, the women’s game has well and truly arrived. A generation of young girls will be inspired by this summer's tournament and from hereon it will only go from strength to strength, which is brilliant for the game we all love.