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Switzerland v England - Women’s International Friendly

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Editorial: The Euro 2022 festival of women’s football starts this week, and you’re all invited

Whether you’re an established Lionesses fan or a total newbie, this month we will put a Mackem spin on England’s biggest football tournament in over 25 years!

Photo by Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

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This week we celebrate the opening of a home UEFA European Championships where the eyes and ears of this great footballing nation will be opened like never before to the joys of women’s football, and we have a squad packed full of a golden generation of talent who’ve taken the game to new heights.

And, wow, what an England Lionesses squad has been assembled for the main event of this summer - Euro 2022!

Delayed for a year due to the pandemic, the excitement has been building as we’ve seen the latest crop of young players emerge to join the established internationals who took England all the way to the World Cup Semi Finals in France in 2019, when almost 12 million of us here in the UK watched on as we gave the mighty USA one hell of a fright.

I believe that with the home crowds behind us - with the attacking prowess of Beth Mead, with the energy and quality of Lucy Bronze on the right, with the defensive solidity of Demi Stokes, and the vast experience of Jill Scott - a squad whose core was made in Sunderland can win this tournament.

England Team Visit Nike HQ Photo by Lynne Cameron - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

In doing so, they will realise the amazing potential benefits that glory at Wembley on 31st July would bring to our whole country. But indulge me for a moment while I set out what that potential is, and how Sunderland could be a huge beneficiary of it.

No games will be played in the north east of England after neither Sunderland nor Middlesbrough or Newcastle put forward bids to be a host city back in 2017-18 - a time when Ellis Short and Martin Bain were in the process of throwing away the hard work - a missed opportunity for a region that has been responsible for producing such a wealth of talent down the years.

As Roker Report’s editor in charge of our women’s football coverage, I’m proud to have assembled a team of knowledgable, passionate, and dedicated writers and podcasters that together have taken fan media coverage of Sunderland AFC Women beyond that of almost any other side in English football.

This is no more than the young women who represent our club right now, and who’ve represented us in the past, deserve. Their dedication to the game they love is infectious, you only have to listen to a youngster like Neve Herron, currently with the Lionesses U19 team at their Euros in the Czech Republic, talk about her passion for our club to understand the vast potential the game still has on Wearside.

We should be extraordinarily proud of what our club, the players, their families, and our fanbase has achieved over the last 33 years - we have four former players in the 23-woman squad plus three exceptional players who couldn’t quite make it due to injury.

Switzerland v England - Women’s International Friendly Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

So, if you and your family have some free time and some spare cash, grab yourselves some of the very reasonably priced tickets on offer and get yourself to a game. Rotherham and Sheffield are not too far away.

And the secondary ticket sale market on Twitter is pretty vibrant, and the UEFA ticket app allows for the easy transfer of tickets from those who might not be able to make games. Those who want to come to Old Trafford and be amongst the 75,000+ of us who will be there on Wednesday can still find tickets via social media.

The BBC will have comprehensive coverage of every match. We will be releasing a series of special podcasts on our new Roker Report Lasses podcast feed with special guests and expert panelists throughout the tournament.

This starts with our preview pod, which is out now, with former Sunderland player and editor of She Kicks magazine Jen O’Neill, who joined Charlotte and me for a chat over the weekend.

It also includes the first entry in Brett’s Audio Diary, where Roker Rapport podcaster Brett Lyons-Davis will chronicle his journey through the tournament with his wife and his two girls as their home city of Milton Keynes plays host to Group B (with Spain, Germany, Demark, Finland) and a Semi-Final.

Brett, like many of you reading this and other colleagues on Roker Report, will be encountering women’s football for the first time, and we hope his experiences as a newbie will be something you can identify with directly. Chris Camm will also be providing match reports and we will hold regular.

This could be a transformative few weeks for the whole of Englsih football - but it will take the goodwill and open-mindedness of the masses of fans of men’s football who’ve so far only shown a fleeting interest in the women’s games to make a massive change for the better happen.

For over the next 27 days we could create the conditions for every girl in the country who wants to play football to be given that opportunity. We could create a popular demand that will bring more money into a club like Sunderland AFC which has such a long, rich, and successful history in developing the best players in England.

England Women Training Session Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

We also need to be wary of what has been dubbed by FIFPRO’s Director of Global Policy & Strategic Relations, Sarah Gregorious, on the Sport Unlocked podcast this week as “progress washing”. There is still a long way to go before we have anything like true equality in sport or in society more generally.

Football can spearhead wider social transformations but is also socially embedded and reflective of both wider cultural attitudes towards women and also of the power relations that exist in society and the economy.

This tournament has huge potential to raise awareness of the challenges this sport still faces when it comes to equality and can bring new people to the game of football overall. It could be an inflection point that makes our national sport one that is truly welcoming for everyone regardless of age, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity.

So we invite you to join our big party, it’s going to be fun and the football will be fantastic.

#Ha’way the Lionesses


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