FOOTBALL NOW is a new show that brings to light some of the global game's biggest issues, challenges, and debates.
Football continues to hold the world's attention. In the last decade, the women's game has attracted new fans, broadcasting and advertising deals, and according to sporting experts, the expected growth is phenomenal.
In this edition of Football Now, we are celebrating International Women's Day, and it's only fitting that we take a moment to recognise some of the huge strides and achievements women have made in the game.
Let's take a look at how the future of women's football is being redefined by breaking the Bias.
Women's football: The rise and fall (and rise)
In the early 20th century, women's football had impacted the game both on and off the pitch.
1895: The first recorded women's football match takes place in London.
1920: The first international game is played.
1920: Later that year, 53,000 fans watched a game at Goodison Park in Liverpool.
1921: Women were banned from playing by the English Football Association.
1938: Women are banned from competing in France, Spain, and Brazil. Other nations soon followed.
According to activist and author Sue Anstiss, the ban must have affected those who participated.
"When you think now about the passion for sport, to have that taken away from you, your livelihoods. The joy you have for the game and an opportunity to play must have been devastating for them at the time. It took such a long time to get the ban lifted. We know now how that's held the women's game back for so long. But hats off to those trailblazers who worked so hard to get the game back being played for all women and girls."
1971: England and Europe lifted the ban on women's football.
1984: Sweden wins the first European Championship.
1991: China hosts FIFA World Cup for the first time.
1996: The Olympics Committee welcomed female football.
1999: 90,000 spectators attended the FIFA Women's World Cup Final in the United States.
2009: Copa Libertadores women's tournament begins in South America.
2016: FIFA appoints Fatma Samoura as first female Secretary-General.
2019: USA win the World Cup in France.
Record broadcasting deals and viewing figures
The United States has been considered the go-to destination for aspiring footballers, but Europe is catching up. The WSL (Women's Soccer League) announced a record-breaking €18 million per season deal in 2021, pushing viewing figures to unprecedented levels. Swedish footballer Thea Hammarqvist believes this representation of women on the world stage is something that will inspire a whole new generation of young children to take up the game.
"It's impressive how far we've actually come in terms of play and how good the players are. And with Women's Day, I think we should highlight and remember where we came from and strive towards bigger and better things because that's what women's football deserves. I think it's interesting how far we've come in such a short period because when I was younger, there weren't any women's football games on TV or stuff like that. But now it's a lot more accessible, especially with the Champions League and WSL. And so I think it's really important to highlight and celebrate Women's Day."
Thea Hammarqvist plays for Qviding in Sweden. She told Football Now that she believes broadcasting deals and coverage are increasing because the product on the pitch is of such high-quality - and she thinks that is down to the work going on behind the scenes in the professional game.
Biggest women's game of all time?
There's little doubt about the dominant force in the women's club game. Barcelona Femeni currently leads the league by 22 points after winning 23 of 23 games. The Champions League holders will continue their defence their title against Real Madrid Femenino at the Nou Camp. The high-profile match will be played in front of a record-breaking 85,000 fans.
Spanish football correspondent Andrea Sanchis admits she's counting down the days before the game takes place. "I'm very excited to see the Clasico at the Nou Camp. I think that all these events are the reward for the team, but it also shows there is a high level of football in the Spanish league. For me, the change in women's football has only just begun, but without a doubt, it's a big step for Spanish women's football."
Barcelona are the overwhelming favourites to make it to the semi-finals. However, if there's no such thing as a foregone conclusion in football, it's safe to say that the game as a whole will progress further and carry on inspiring young women and attracting a new audience to the beautiful game.