Winter World Cup will be an ideal moment to showcase domestic women’s football and clubs must play their part

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Winter World Cup will be an ideal moment to showcase domestic women’s football and clubs must play their part
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A downside of the Premier League’s return will be an inevitable reduction in focus on the women’s game in the aftermath of England’s historic Euro 2022 win.

Like a black hole, the Premier League has a tendency to swallow everything in its orbit, including other aspects of men’s football, and the attention of many fans and, it should be said, elements of the media will be consumed.

A challenge for women’s football is to become a permanent preoccupation for millions, rather than a seasonal attraction during major tournaments.

One discussion that needs to be had is where and how the Premier League (and the rest of the men’s game) can offer women’s football breathing space.

The 2023-24 men’s season could, for example, start later than usual to give centre stage to next summer’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which concludes on August 20 (although Richard Masters, the top flight’s chief executive, has already suggested that this is unlikely).

Conveniently, this Premier League season comes with an enforced six-week break to accommodate a men’s winter World Cup in Qatar, making for a unique window in which to give the women’s game a shot in the arm and build on the success of this summer.

There are three rounds of WSL ­fixtures, two rounds of the Women’s FA Cup and three Champions League matchdays between November 12-13, when the Premier League pauses, and the World Cup Final on December 18.

Obviously, there are challenges to capturing supporters’ attention in the midst of a World Cup but there will be a surplus of fans of Premier League and Championship clubs (the second tier also pauses for four weeks) who want to keep attending matches.

Diverting these supporters to women’s games should be the priority of clubs. Arsenal are already hosting Manchester United in the WSL at the Emirates on the weekend of November 19-20, and the Manchester derby will be played at the Etihad on ­December 11.

There is no reason why all women’s matches could not be at clubs’ main stadia during the tournament, and tickets should be made easier to buy, perhaps with incentives for regular season ticket holders to attend.

England Lionesses 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro Victory Celebration For Fans in Trafalgar Square

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There is also a case for the FA and broadcasters to be pragmatic during the World Cup by trying to avoid clashes with matches in Qatar, particularly England games, ensuring the television audience and footfall for the WSL is as high as possible.

Tweaking the fixture schedule or kick-off times are among their options.

For fans still considering travelling to the World Cup, staying at home and supporting other football instead — be it the women’s or grassroots games, or the Football League — also has a moral element, given Qatar is a country where homosexuality remains illegal and which is guilty of well-documented human rights abuses.

Women’s football increasingly appeals to fans in part because it is more inclusive and ­welcoming and less tainted than the men’s game, so an appropriate way to protest Qatar would be to spend this winter World Cup actively supporting the women’s game.

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