|Host country: England Dates: July 6-31 Places: Old Trafford, Manchester; St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton; Amex Stadium, Brighton; MK Stadium, Milton Keynes; Brentford Community Stadium; Leigh Sports Village; Bramell Lane, Sheffield; Academy Stadium, Manchester; New York Stadium, Rotherham; wembley stadium|
|Coverage: All 31 games will be broadcast live on the BBC. click here for more information|
“You can smell football in the air,” said Peter Bonde, the then Denmark coach, before the start of Euro 2005, the last time England hosted the European Women’s Championship.
Seventeen years ago, the competition was much smaller and less dazzling than the tournament taking place across the country this month.
Back then, all 15 matches were played at venues in the North West of England, including four at the new home of the Warrington Wolves rugby league team.
That was because there was not enough interest from football clubs to host matches, according to Alex Stone, England’s press officer at Euro 2005.
Euro 2022, described as the “greatest in history” by Uefa, promises to be a more elegant and brilliant edition.
Unlike in 2005, supermarkets sell sticker albums featuring women’s soccer superstars like Alexia Putellas, Vivianne Miedema and Lauren Hemp.
Sixteen teams – twice as many as in 2005 – will compete over 25 days, with 71,300 tickets sold for the opening match between England and Austria at Old Trafford on July 6.
The final will be played at Wembley with 87,200 spectators on July 31, mind-boggling numbers compared to the last time England hosted the event, when just 957 turned up for a match between France and Italy at Preston’s Deepdale Stadium.
The Women’s Euro Cup has come by leaps and bounds. But what happened 17 years ago and what did Euro 2005 do for women’s football?
Working as a postman to pay for the boots
While the Lionesses, seeking their first European crown, start as one of the favorites this time around, it was a different story when the European Championship came to Manchester, Blackburn, Blackpool, Preston and Warrington.
Hope Powell’s team was on a part-time basis, and the England manager stated before the tournament: “The women’s game here is a second-class sport.”
Striker Kelly Smith’s Arsenal might have been the best women’s team in England at the time, but six months before the Euros she had to work as a temporary postman to stay in her boots.
“It’s important that we put on a good show this summer, especially with the reputation that women’s football in England has, or doesn’t have,” Smith said in an interview. in the Times, he said at the time.
“There are a lot of negative images that men, especially, hold on to.”
Five months before Euro 2005, Powell took her players to La Manga for warm-weather training, but 17-year-old striker Eniola Aluko was not there.
A key member of the team, Aluko stayed home to check for your A levels in psychology, media studies and English.
As the tournament approached, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks stars like actor Bradley Walsh were brought in to help sell tickets priced at £5 for adults and £2.50 concessions. Tickets for Euro 2022 range from £5 to £50.
The City of Manchester Stadium, which had hosted the Commonwealth Games three years earlier, played host to England’s first group match against Finland, and a crowd of 29,092 watched as 17-year-old Birmingham City striker Karen Carney, scoring a game-winning goal in the 91st minute.
Moments before Carney’s goal sealed the 3–2 win, the England press officer had gone down into the tunnel area to arrange the post-match television interviews.
“When Karen scored, I just ran back down the tunnel like David Pleat in reverse. I yelled something and ran back to the bottom of the tunnel,” recalls Stone.
“The UEFA press delegate who was nearby pulled me aside and said ‘that’s not what we normally do’. I apologized and explained that I had worked with these players for so long and knew how much they wanted to shine.” .
“It wasn’t just three points in a group game. It’s what it could mean for the future development of the sport in England.”
Even at 17, Carney was not the youngest goalscorer at Euro 2005, which saw Germany secure the fourth of six successive European titles, an honor that went to 16-year-old Norwegian striker Isabell Herlovsen.
Still, the English teenager noted a change in public perception.
“It was the first time I had seen people walking down the street wearing England shirts with our names on them,” Carney said. speaking to the Football Association website in 2018.
“That opening game at Manchester City was unbelievable. There were so many fans there.”
England’s tournament, however, ended early after defeats to Denmark and Sweden, both at Blackburn’s Ewood Park, which left them bottom of the group.
But despite the disappointment of the national team, women’s football was already gaining a new legion of fans in England.
a whole new world
Adam Bateman has good reason to remember Euro 2005. It was the first time he paid to attend a football match.
At 21, he traveled 50 miles from his home in the Cheshire village of Mobberley to Blackburn to be among the 25,694 spectators at Ewood Park for England’s final group match against Sweden.
The coach of the England team was managed to hit the ground as fans lined up at the approach.
Despite the 1-0 loss that saw Powell’s team eliminated, it opened up a whole new world for Bateman. He has lost count of the number of women’s matches he has attended since then.
“Having an international tournament in this corner of the forest was very exciting at the time,” he said. “Faye White and Rachel Unitt were the players that stood out for me because they were no-nonsense defenders.
“Outside the field, they were selling flags and I remember the atmosphere was very lively.”
Carney said that Euro 2005 helped women’s football grow in England.
“I still have people coming up to me saying that Euro 2005 was the first time they saw a women’s match and that it hooked them,” she said. “It’s a lovely thing to hear.”
Now a Manchester United WSL season ticket holder, Bateman was among the first in line when Euro 2022 tickets went on sale, shelling out £130 to watch eight matches in July.
When Norway captured hearts in Warrington
Midfielder Georgia Stanway told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast that the current generation of England players have been blowing off steam in their training camp ahead of Euro 2022 by watching Love Island.
“We have a little chill room. We turn on the TV and get out the bean bags,” Stanway added.
In 2005, he was the big brother that was the reality TV ratings winner.
It was also the summer that Norway captured hearts in the rugby league town of Warrington.
A letter published in The Warrington Guardian newspaper summed up the mood after Halliwell Jones Stadium, which had only opened the previous year, was selected as the venue.
“It’s good to see an event as prestigious as Euro 2005 having matches at the new city venue,” wrote Orford’s Debbie Sanderson.
The first game in Warrington, Germany’s 1–0 group victory over Norway, was watched by 1,600 spectators. Ten days later, 5,722 attended Norway’s 3–2 semi-final victory over Sweden.
Norway coach Bjarne Berntsen was quoted as saying: “The people of Warrington have been tremendous and I think they love our girls.”
Around 120,000 spectators attended the 15 games over two weeks, which were broadcast live on Eurosport, with the BBC showing all three of England’s group matches and the final.
Over 3.5 million viewers watched the hosts’ loss to Sweden, a share of 20% of the English audience on a Saturday night.
That was music to Stone’s ears, who recalls that before Euro 2005 he had to telephone the media to give them the score of England’s matches so that it would appear in the morning papers.
However, Euro 2005 was not all smooth sailing. Five of the 15 games failed to draw crowds of 2,000.
And there was controversy a few days before the final when Lennart Johansson, then president of UEFA, claimed that sponsors of women’s football could profit from promoting the physical attributes of the players.
“Companies could make use of a lovely-looking, sweaty little girl playing on the ground, in the rainy weather. It would sell.” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
His comments, a year after his FIFA counterpart Sepp Blatter asked players to wear “tighter shorts”, provoked an angry reaction.
However, Euro 2005 was hailed as a success.
“I am sure that we will take women’s football to another level,” UEFA chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson said at the end of the tournament.
Seventeen years later, Euro 2022 in England promises to be bigger and better than ever.