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How the Lionesses' World Cup success is inspiring grassroots football in London

News   •   Jul 02, 2019 11:49 BST

Beth Towle (second in from the left) celebrates England's 2-0 victory over Japan (credit: Beth Towle)

The Lionesses face arguably their biggest ever World Cup match on Tuesday evening as they take on pre-tournament favourites the USA in the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Just 2.7% of women nationally participated in football in the past year, according to Sport England’s Active Lives data, but viewing figures for the BBC for the World Cup have been extremely strong.

The numbers tuning in for England’s 3-0 quarter-final victory over Norway last Thursday (27 June) were higher than the men’s FA Cup final back in April when Manchester City lifted the trophy.

Clearly, the 2019 Women’s World Cup has created a huge platform for the Lionesses and it’s an opportunity that grassroots football clubs in the capital are determined to seize.

One such club is the award-winning South London Laces, and chair Beth Towle has already noticed the impact England’s progress in France has made back home.

“The Women’s World Cup has created a real buzz in the football community and there have been so many tournaments in London to mark the occasion,” she explained.

“As a club we feel inspired by not only the talent on show but by how global icons like Marta from Brazil are using the World Cup to inspire the next generation.

“They are not playing for money, but for the next generation, and it allows players at grassroot clubs, like South London Laces, to discover that relatability with them.

“Many women and girls across the capital will remember how this World Cup has made them feel and will feel emotionally connected to the players going forwards.”

Towle has been across to France to soak up the atmosphere first hand and, along with nine friends, saw England triumph 2-0 against Japan in the group stages.

But the South London Laces’ girls weren’t the only ones making the trip across the channel as Towle bumped into plenty of familiar faces from on and off the pitch whilst in Nice.

Upon her return, she is eager to make the most of the success of the 2019 Women’s World Cup with Laces hosting four open sessions throughout the tournament to welcome new members.

“There are going to be a lot of women and girls watching the game and feeling inspired to get back into the sport or start, and we want to be a part of welcoming them into our community,” she added.

“Open sessions create a really relaxed environment and it’s important to have coaches that deliver fun invasion games whilst incorporating some element of the World Cup.

“We have had a massive social media presence with several volunteers running all of the accounts and responding to enquiries and creating a WhatsApp group to keep all new players up to date.”

England have won three of their last five meetings with the USA but most recently were held to a 2-2 draw at the SheBelieves Cup back in March.

Success for Phil Neville’s side tonight then could have significant and far-reaching consequences for the grassroots of the sport in addition to the joy of seeing England in the World Cup final on 7 July in Lyon. 

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