Former England midfielder Fara Williams believes the visibility of women’s football needs to be increased, following the conclusion of the World Cup.
A peak audience of 11.7 million people tuned in to watch England lose to the USA in their semi-final, the fourth time in the tournament that a record number of people in the UK watched a women’s football match.
But Williams insists more work has to be done if those increased audience figures are to translate into a legacy which benefits the women’s domestic game.
Talking on the Football Show 24/7, the 35-year-old England international explained: “I certainly think the clubs have to do a lot more with their marketing - bums on seats at domestic games is the most important thing now to keep the game growing.
“We have to continue to make women’s football visible for people.
“The game was on the BBC and you could choose to watch it and 11.7 million people chose to do that, so there is obviously interest in it, it’s now getting those people off their sofas and to the games and on those seats because that is important for the growth of our game.”
Williams says the onus will now be on clubs in the Women’s Super League, England’s elite competition, to capitalise on the surge in interest.
“I feel like I’ve been part of the marketing team in the past,” said the Reading player. “Players have certainly played that role, trying to get fans to the games.
“We use our social media platforms, our instagrams, and put it out there, where the games are at. We do our most to get fans to games.
“Marketing needs to be better. The games have to be at set kick-off times, they have to be regular. If they are going to be on a Sunday then a 2 o’clock kick off time throughout the Women’s Super League is important so fans can actually go online and read when the games are or see it in the paper.
“But they have to be able to see it and they have to know what is going on, the word has to be out there.”
Williams praised England’s opponents in the semi-final, the USA, and the pathway that is created for young players to make it up into international football. But the former Arsenal player explained that pathway doesn’t exist in England.
Williams added: “Grassroots football needs to improve, the coaching across the board has to improve.
“If we want to move from a semi-final team to a final team then all coaching across the board has to improve for that to happen, and the development of players to happen.”
Sitting on The Football Show 24/7 sofa alongside Williams, former West Ham defender Mollie Kmita agreed that more has to be done by football clubs.
Kmita is confident a potential takeover of the WSL by the Premier League could help the women’s game develop.
“Clubs can use players for marketing as much as they like,” said Kmita. But really they’re only targeting fans who already follow those players.
“We need to reach out to people who don’t watch the game at all. But we need to get out of the bubble that women’s football is in and get those people inside the tent.
“The Premier League certainly know what they’re doing and I think it would be in safe hands if that was the case. There is a natural association with men’s clubs and women’s clubs that needs to become closer together and you hope that builds fanbases.
“The women’s clubs need to stand on their own and not depend on anyone else to be sustainable, so if that is a step to doing that then it is the right move to make.”
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