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The Women’s World Cup has been a tournament we will look back on as the point when all of our longstanding expectation of what women’s football could be was realised. You just have to look at television viewing figures around the world, which have been better than anything the men’s game has managed this year with nearly 12 million people tuning in to watch England’s semi-final defeat by USA and another 25 million in Brazil watching their last-16 game. That is immense.

It’s completely shattered the myth that people are not interested in women’s football. I think we have to be honest and say not every stadium in France was sold out, so that was a disappointment, but that is very much part of the next step to continue the surge in interest. There is a risk women’s football becomes the most popular spectator sport that fans tune into every four years but are not interested in parting with their money to watch the same players on their doorstep.
All football stakeholders and decision-makers must make sure that people who fell in love with women’s football stay in love with it and start turning up every week to watch the same players they have been watching over these past four weeks. We want the leagues to be strong and sustainable and to have their own economies because of the number of eyes that are now on the sport. Broadcasters must be ready to invest heavily but will not do so if stadiums are half empty every week.

There has been a lot of discussion about whether the Premier League should step in to take over the Women’s Super League. If the Premier League can market the games alongside the men’s then I think that is one way of capitalising on the current interest. There has to be a league-wide strategy for all the clubs to work out how to entice fans to turn up every week through marketing, ticketing deals and club merchandising on site. Whether it’s discounted rates for men’s matches if you come and watch the women’s team or merchandising benefits exclusively available at women’s stadiums, there are lots of smart ways to start changing fan attendance habits.
It’s great to see Manchester City have announced their derby against Manchester United is to be played at the Etihad next season. Chelsea have also announced their derby against Spurs will be played at Stamford Bridge. I expect both games will be sellout crowds just as we saw at my club Juventus last season against Fiorentina. It is vital that these games don’t just become one-off occasions either – games at men’s stadiums should be happening five or six times a season or build fit-for-purpose stadiums for the women’s teams that will sell out every week. Once we get the attendances right, the broadcasting money will come flooding in which we all know revolutionised the status of the men’s Premier League and its clubs.

Netherlands v Japan
 Every knockout round had a game that featured an exceptional level of play, such as Netherlands’ 2-1 win over Japan in the last 16. Photograph: Paul Currie/BPI/Rex Shutterstock

On the pitch, the level of play has been outstanding, particularly in the knockout stages of the competition. Every knockout round had a game that featured an exceptional level of play, from USA v France or Netherlands v Japan and that has been very encouraging.
USA ended up being worthy winners and I think they are probably the best women’s football team of all time. What inspires me most about the USA team is the unapologetic way they lead the way on political issues such as equal pay and do so as badass women who are ruthless in their pursuit of success. I believe England can take a huge leaf out of USA’s book in terms of the winning mentality but also the way in which their players use their platforms for change. I still think in England players are labelled “troublemakers” for doing so. The USA women are far from troublemakers but icons and pioneers.
It doesn’t seem to matter about which generation it is – there is something in the college system and through to the national team that makes these women absolute winners. There’s something in that mentality which I’m not sure you can coach. It’s just in their DNA. We have to figure out in Europe how to embed the same mentality into our football culture. We are, however, closer than ever before. Those fine margins that saw Ellen White’s goal disallowed in the semi-final would not have been the difference years ago.

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The key could be the growing strength of our domestic leagues, with the Champions League as the pinnacle. I think Uefa now has to introduce group stages for the Champions League so it gives more players exposure to top-level international competition. All of that helps to build experience that could translate to England going from the semi-finals to the final or Netherlands winning the World Cup next time round. The 2021 European Championship in England is surely a big target for Phil Neville and his team to win.
It is not far on the horizon, but one thing is certain: the future for women’s football around the world is phenomenally bright.

 'Everybody is ready for it': World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe on equal pay – video


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