How the Lionesses used Social to take Women’s football to the next level
If the Lionesses were looking to make their mark this World Cup, they’d create as much hype as possible in the lead up to the tournament, right? Right. And that is exactly what they’ve just done. In what is the most star-studded lineup in the history of squad announcements, they have just used Prince William, David Beckham, Emma Watson, James Cordon and Ellie Goulding (to name a few), to announce each individual player who’s on the plane to France via video messages that were posted on Twitter. Leaving no surprise that #Lionesses is one of the top trends today. If you want a certified way to trend on Twitter, use the most influential people on England.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 8, 2019
I personally think this is different and strong way to announce the @Lionesses World Cup Squad – nice job and hope they do well – I'll be watching every game #FootballisComingHome #Lionesses @England https://t.co/lG4CiNRKYo
— peteway (@peteway) May 8, 2019
This year, the FA have seemed to follow an approach of if you won’t broadcast it, we’ll show it ourselves but in a way that isn’t stubborn but instead is showcasing what the big broadcasters have been missing. Very talented footballers playing incredible football. As there wasn’t the interest from Sky or BT Sports, the WSL had the opportunity to create a space to consume Football in which other leagues and clubs hadn’t due to strict rights restrictions. Previously, the only way to be able to watch Women’s games was to attend the matches but this season, they’ve taken things up a notch and have been utilising social media to make it accessible for a much wider audience. They’ve been live streaming Women’s Super League matches on Facebook, streaming full matches and the Lionesses have been streaming International games on Twitter. The majority of Super League teams now also have a dedicated media team who produces highlights to YouTube channels on top of this. Previously, it came across that women’s Football was kept a secret. The only way you were able to watch a game or hear about it would be if you were extremely interested in it and searched to consume it yourself but there has been a huge combined effort to put Women’s football in the forefront of people’s attention and have been doing so by using social media.
— Steph Lazarczuk (@SportRehabSteph) May 8, 2019
The FA and the clubs involved in the Super League have invested in creating this awareness which has made not only the bigger broadcasters such as the BBC but sponsors aware of the popularity of the sport. Not only is it the FA who have upped their game, some of the biggest news outlets such as The Telegraph, who introduced a complete revamp and dedication to Women’s sport by introduction the new initiative which “promises unprecedented investment in and coverage of women’s sport by a UK publisher” and in their team, invited England vice-captain Jordan Nobbs to be one of their contributors. These combined efforts have shown how much interest there has been resulting in the BBC planning to show every match of the World Cup and a £500k investment from Barclays which the FA named ‘the biggest ever investment in UK’s women sport by a brand.’ Not only is it a credit to the organisations behind the teams, but to the teams and players who are continuously working hard to develop the game.
British entrepreneur and founder of SB.TV, Jamal Edwards, was given the ‘honour’ to announce Millie Bright into the Lionesses into the squad and said “Right now, I feel like there’s so much support, so much hunger and exposure for Women’s sport than ever before.” Which is completely correct and the squad announcement today just proves it.
— Jack Target (@JTarget23) May 8, 2019
Although social media has helped develop a sport that wasn’t getting the coverage it deserved, it has come with some unfortunate consequences. Earlier this year, Chelsea and England footballer, Karen Carney received messages that no-one should ever have to read. Death and rape threats were posted to her via Instagram in which Karen urged Instagram to take action. It’s understandable that “trolling” has made social media extremely unappealing for athletes and has led to professional teams like the GB Rugby 7s girls, banning it completely when they went to Rio in 2016, but it would be a real shame for this to prevent more athletes from using social platforms as it could turn out to be extremely beneficial for them. This isn’t only an issue in sport but in everyday life which both the social platforms and the Government are trying to crack down on and create laws which would take situations like these more seriously. While it might take a while, it shouldn’t put athletes off of social media as there are a lot more benefits to using it. They may receive a few nasty comments, but there are hundreds and thousands of fans out there that are waiting to engage positively with them.
Right now, it’s an extremely exciting place for Women’s sport and Women’s Football in particular in England. It will be extremely interesting to see how the World Cup is followed both on TV and how many people will be engaging with it on social as well, I know I’ll definitely be following along on both. It’s now time for the rest of the country to get behind this amazing spectacle and Be Ready for what this summer will bring for Women’s Football. Good luck Lionesses, make us proud!
Edie Kelly is a junior strategist at Wilderness Agency