As the nation basked in the glory of England’s historical triumph in the Women’s Euro 2022 championship, former international and Arsenal ladies’ legend Alex Scott offered a somewhat sobering reflection on the success of the tournament from a business perspective.
During the post-match analysis, the pundit delivered some scathing home truths about the attitudes of Premier League clubs and potential sponsors when it came to Women’s football, broadly condemning them for their abject failure to show financial or physical support when it was most needed.
She described with great passion the struggle endured back in 2018 when trying to convince top-flight clubs to offer up their stadiums to host Euro’s matches, and stated that she personally would no longer ‘beg’ for sponsorship from brands who had failed to recognise the potential of the championship could yield at the outset.
During the championship, only four Premier League venues stepped up to the plate – Manchester United’s Old Trafford, Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium, Brighton’s Falmer Stadium and Brentford’s Community Stadium.
Manchester City agreed to host a couple of matches at its Academy Stadium, which has a mere capacity of 7,000 – a far cry from the record-breaking 87,192 attendance at Wembley for the final – a situation described by Scott as ‘embarrassing’.
The impact of her words will have massively hurt those Premier League Clubs with multi-million-pound stadiums who were noticeably absent from the venue roster, whilst also tarnishing the reputations of the many businesses so eager to throw big bucks at the Men’s game.
In the midst of the celebrations, these organisations will now be licking their wounds, and wondering how they can repair the PR damage inflicted by Scott so publicly calling out the overt misogyny the business of football still exudes.
Of course, there will be many now seeking to hop on the bandwagon and capitalise on the Women’s success. Changing their tune on the opportunities the sport can now offer. But is it simply too late?
Scott certainly thinks so, stating: “If you’re not involved, you’ve missed the boat, you’ve missed the train. Because look at this… it has finally left the station and it is gathering speed.”
At this point, the only reasonable course of action for those organisations wanting to redeem themselves is to be humble. Accept responsibility for their past failings, and consider how they can instil real, quantifiable change in their cultures to ensure equality remains at the heart of all future decisions.
England’s success at Euro 2022 will inspire millions of people and change the face of the game forever. It will revolutionise how the sport is represented, managed, and appreciated. But Football Clubs and big business will only be able to capitalise on that if they too seek to evolve and embrace the true possibilities of equality.