Euro 2022: how England became a stronghold of women’s football

Whatever the outcome of the first semi-final between England and Sweden, this Tuesday July 26 (9 p.m.) in Sheffield (United Kingdom), the Women’s Football Euro organized this year on English lawns will mark certainly a victory for the host country. From its first matches spent to crush Norway (8-0) or Northern Ireland (5-0), until a possible final in the mythical enclosure of Wembley (90,000 seats), Sunday July 31, the “Lionesses” have always sold out at this European Championship.

A sign that in the country where modern football was born, supporters only ask to live to the rhythm of the round ball, whether it is led on the field by a man or a woman. Never deprived of emotion by the first, in club as in selection, where the players had reached the final of the last men’s Euro a year ago, the fans have long been chomping at the bit when it comes to women’s football.

The fault, in part, of the Football Association (FA), the English football federation, which prohibited women from practicing this sport considered dangerous for their health, from the 1920s until the 1970s. And despite a first Women’s Euro at low resonance organized on English soil in the summer of 2005, the discipline is left in the lurch by the institutions, which regard it above all as an adjustment variable when concluding budgets. Already alerted by the good results of its selection at the 2015 World Cup, finished in third place, the federation changes foot when the award of Euro 2021 looms (finally postponed to 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic) , which she will pocket.

Major reform of the national championship

A major reform was launched five years ago, “which mainly concerns the development of Women’s Super League (WSL), the English national championship, notes sports economist Luc Arrondel, a specialist in women’s football. A championship had been present since the 1990s and had become a little more structured in a semi-professional way from 2011, but it was disputed in the summer period, therefore with very little visibility. » The 2017 growth plan begins the process of professionalisation: independent governance of women’s football is established at the FA and the twelve clubs which are granted a professional license must pay their players at least sixteen hours a week and acquire of a women’s section for their training centre.

The vast majority of clubs rely on the facilities of their men’s section, which most often play in the Premier League, the English first division, although the women have their own stadium. “We have two assistants, a mental coach (…), two physiotherapists, a masseur, a doctor. The staffs are a little wider (just in France) and then, in terms of infrastructure, we are in a huge center. We have three gyms, an indoor synthetic pitch. It’s England, what! », recently enthused French international Kenza Dali, today at Everton after moving to Londoners West Ham, quoted by Agence France-Presse.

The reform also concerned the very form of the championship, where the number of clubs relegated to the lower level at the end of the season was reduced. “The WSL is more closed, which has brought more stability for the clubs and strengthened their competitiveness”, notes Luc Arrondel, especially, he specifies, that “The players of the English national team receive a significant income to remain playing in the English championship” and that foreign players have had more difficulty settling in the United Kingdom since Brexit, thus favoring the emergence of young English talent.

Growing attendance, flooding sponsors

While the level of play has logically progressed, crowds have followed in the stadiums, filled on average with a few thousand supporters before the start of the health crisis. A push that prompted the influx of sponsors and the arrival for three years of broadcasters such as the Sky Sports channel and the BBC, for the record sum of 8.1 million euros since the start of the 2021 school year, three times higher than the rights television stations of the French first division. “Contrary to what is usually practiced, this media coverage and these cash inflows are the consequence of an almost political reform of English football”, emphasizes Luc Arrondel.

With the European Championship, English football intends to strengthen its self-sufficiency for the coming seasons. Our objective is twofold: to organize a record tournament and leave a tangible legacy to develop women’s football.”advanced ahead of the event Sue Campbell, director of women’s football at the English federation, in remarks taken up by the British daily The Guardian. The Euro, like every major competition, could in particular promote an additional jump in vocations, and would make it possible to retain the public across the Channel for good. The condition for the progress of English women’s football to be reflected next season at club level on the European scene, still in difficulty on their side against their French, Spanish or German neighbors.


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Concerned about Russia and Sweden increasing troops on the outpost island

The Swedish armed forces are increasing their combat readiness in some areas, citing Russia’s increased military activity.

Military resources will be “reallocated to increase operations in some places” in Sweden, with the change “obvious” on Gotland island in the Baltic Sea, said Michael Claesson, director of operations for the Swedish military. Dien, said in a statement on January 13.

The Aftonbladet newspaper yesterday published a video showing armored vehicles patrolling the harbor of Visby, the largest town on the island.

Swedish soldiers from Gotland’s regiment patrol in the port of Visby on January 13. Photo: AFP.

Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, but is not a member of NATO. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Sweden restored conscription from 2018 and beefed up its military capabilities, which had been declining since the end of the Cold War.

Gotland is located about 320 km northwest of Russia’s Kaliningrad region, a militarized area.

“The security situation in the area near us has been dire for a long time, and the recent course of events reinforces that picture,” Claesson said, adding that the Russian navy’s move “doesn’t mean anything.” threat increases, but we are always adapting to the current situation.”

Earlier this week, Swedish fighters closely followed amphibious ships of the Russian Northern Fleet entering the Baltic Sea through the Great Belt, Denmark.

Sweden’s move comes amid a recent escalation of tensions between Russia and the West after the US and NATO accused Russia of sending about 70,000-100,000 troops close to the border with Ukraine, expressing concern that this country might launch an all-out war. Russia denies the allegations and declares them “baseless”, insisting all military moves on its western border are purely for defensive purposes.

Moscow last month made a series of security proposals to the West that seek to reduce NATO’s military presence to 1990s levels. Russia also asked NATO to ensure that it does not expand the alliance eastward or deploy weapons. forces in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, Micael Byden, warned that the Swedish military would not be able to perform its function if Russia forced the West to agree to its proposals.

Location of the island of Gotland.  Graphics: sverigesradio

Location of the island of Gotland. Graphics: sverigesradio

Huyen Le (Follow Bloomberg)



Handball: France stopped by Sweden in the semi-final of the World Cup

Weakened by the absence of Timothey N’Guessan and Luka Karabatic, the French handball team saw its dream of a title fly away at the World Cup in Egypt, beaten in the semi-final by a young and talented Sweden (26-32 ), Friday January 29 in Cairo. Twenty years after its last final, Sweden will face Denmark or Spain on Sunday to try to win a fifth title and make up half of its delay over France (6 crowns) at the top of the list.

The Blues have not yet finished with their Egyptian campaign, which will remain successful in the event of a podium. This will go through a success on the loser of the Spain – Denmark match, and therefore a bronze medal in this first World Cup with 32 teams and behind closed doors.

A third place would be a great reward for Guillaume Gille, appointed coach in January 2020 in the wake of the historic elimination in the first round of the Euro. For a group that came to Egypt without the icon Nikola Karabatic, injured in his right knee in October, and who lost along the way goalkeeper Wesley Pardin, injured against Switzerland, as well as left-back Timothey N’Guessan and the pivot Luka Karabatic, affected in the quarterfinals against Hungary.

The prejudicial absence of the Karabatic brothers

Without Karabatic or great goalkeeper at the rendezvous, the Blues first sank in defense. In attack, they fell to a great Andreas Palicka. In a high-flying start to the match as on Michaël Guigou’s kung fu for Dika Mem (3-4), the Swedes took a first advantage thanks to Jonathan Carlsbogard and Daniel Petersson, completely off-center on the wing to deceive Vincent Gérard (4-6).

→ READ. Handball: the new collective force of the Blues

With a strict defense, the French responded with two goals in quick succession, including a superb roucoulette, from Luc Abalo (7-6) who thus made up for a previous exclusion. But the Swedish defense slipped perfectly and recovered the balls, when it was not Andreas Palicka who stopped them. And Felix Claar increased the lead for the Scandinavians (8-12).

Guillaume Gille then moved the lines: exit the leader Kentin Mahé and goalkeeper Vincent Gérard, as well as left-back Romain Lagarde, with insufficient support and replaced by Nedim Remili, Yann Genty and Jean-Jacques Acquevillo.

Having become an option at the center-half during the tournament, Remili kept the Blues afloat with two entry goals (10-12) and by bringing more depth in the attacks. But the Swedes, carried by the counter-attacks and a few individual exploits like that of Hampus Wanne on the left wing, remained in front, galvanized by the fantastic stop of Palicka – right foot at 2 m high, at the bar. – on Valentin Porte, just before the break (13-16).

Red card for Adrien Dipanda

The absence of Karabatic clearly weakened the defense of the Blues, often perforated in the axis. At the break, Sweden only missed one shot (16/17) while the French, countered by Palicka (7 saves) posted a low percentage of 54% in attack. Often in this World Cup, the Blues managed to gain the upper hand at the start of the second period. Not this time. Palicka did not slow down, neither did Wanne and Jim Gottfridsson increased the Scandinavian lead to 5 goals (18-23).

Remili did try to sound the revolt but was too lonely: Gille tried all the combinations, including the substitute Nicolas Claire, author of the goal of hope (20-23, 45e), or by bringing Gérard back in place of Genty. But each time, the Swedes replied (21-25) to keep a good margin in advance.

Only Descat (4/4) regularly found the net. Remili ended up lowering the pace, while the opponent played at his own pace (22-26). With Adrien Dipanda’s red card, a walk from Claire and a missed shot from Mem, their luck had passed (24-28, 24e). With a splendid defensive return from Gottfridsson who had just lost the ball, Sweden had a quiet end to the game.