Katy Sandalls: Euro 2021 is a great opportunity to show how far women’s football has come

England's Toni Duggan celebrates scoring during Euro 2017 Picture: PA WIRE/MIKE EGERTON

England's Toni Duggan celebrates scoring during Euro 2017 Picture: PA WIRE/MIKE EGERTON - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A few weeks ago the FA put in its bid to host the women’s European Championships in 2021.

It may seem a long time away but with the Lionesses having already qualified for next year’s World Cup in France, it really is anything but.

With the bid in the names of the proposed host venues were announced too.

Pleasingly there was a range of locations across the country and not just in London.

Alongside Wembley and Brentford Community stadium in the capital were the Amex in Brighton, the Stadium MK in Milton Keynes, Manchester City’s Academy Stadium, Meadow Lane in in Nottingham, the ABAX in Peterborough, Rotherham’s New York Stadium and home of the Blades, Bramall Lane in Sheffield.

There’s a good range of decently sized stadiums: some home to championship clubs and one even home to a premier league team (two if you count Wembley at the moment *shrugs shoulders*).

It does seem that the FA means business.

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More than that some of the stadiums that have been picked have been so because they are making the game better.

City’s academy ground is one of the best stadiums in the WSL. Milton Keynes is one of the only clubs to have their men and women play regularly on the same pitch after the women were moved across this season. Sheffield United have put an incredible amount of investment into their women’s side: helping them progress quickly with the right amount of financial and emotional support.

That’s not to say that there aren’t reasons to pick the other clubs of course.

The spread of teams means that there should be accessible games in most places: with perhaps the exception of the south west.

You really can’t underestimate the impact that can have on people.

If you’ve read my column regularly you’ll know that I went to my first game (admittedly a little older than most) because it was nearby and seemed interesting. It had peaked my interest.

Now imagine the impact could have on a younger girl hearing that there is a major sporting event going on in her home town or somewhere nearby.

Having grown up near Peterborough the thought of having the game in the ABAX is really exciting. I hope that it will have the same effect on others.

To help that along we need to make sure that we get behind what will be a fantastic opportunity, not only to showcase the footballing talent that we have but to show the passion that the game now attracts.

England have hosted the tournament before. In 2005 Lancashire and Cheshire hosted the cup but featured only eight teams with England finishing bottom of their group.

The game is unrecognisable from those days, 13 years ago, having captured the public’s attention in a way not seen since the days of the Dick, Kerr Ladies back in the early days.

It has the potential to smash the attendances seen then and to bring a new generation of players and fans to the game.

Nothing, however, is official just yet. England have to wait until December to see if they will be formally declared hosts.

It should be just that, a formality, but from then on I hope that the host cities start stepping up a gear both in promoting the event coming to their area and making sure they are putting in investment into local grassroots players.

Back in Suffolk despite strong performances from our local sides none remain in the FA Cup running for this year.

Ipswich Town continue their hunt for silverware in the FA WNL plate later this month.

All of our local teams will then be facing off as they hope to be named the best in the region in the Suffolk Women’s County Cup first round games.

My advice would be to go out and support your local club as these ties are bound to be full of local rivalry!

Elsewhere England play two international friendlies this month.

One match will be in Nottingham against the formidable Brazilian side featuring newly crowned women’s player of the year Marta.

The other game will be at Craven Cottage against Australia. Sadly there will be no appearance from Australian superstar Same Kerr though. A real shame for fans like me who were hoping to see her play.

If you have news you would like to share about your own club then do get in touch. You can email me katy.sandalls@archant.co.uk or tweet me @katysandalls.

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