Katy Sandalls: Why the women’s game needs your support now more than ever

It's been a tough time for women's football Picture: ROSS HALLS

It's been a tough time for women's football Picture: ROSS HALLS - Credit: Archant

Women’s football columnist Katy Sandalls returns to look at the impact of coronavirus on the female game, and some exciting additions to the FAWSL...

Ipswich Town Women returned to the Goldstar Ground on Sunday Picture: ROSS HALLS

Ipswich Town Women returned to the Goldstar Ground on Sunday Picture: ROSS HALLS - Credit: Archant

It seems like an age since I last wrote this column. Months, years, millennia perhaps.

Way back when, we were mulling over Ipswich Town’s FA Cup fantasy run and their eventual thrashing by Manchester City. None of us know what was just around the corner.

I can’t sugarcoat this, it’s been a very difficult time for women’s football.

In all elements of the game, whether that be players, clubs or fans, everyone has suffered in some way from the pandemic.

Ipswich Town Women are ready to take on the new season Picture: ROSS HALLS

Ipswich Town Women are ready to take on the new season Picture: ROSS HALLS - Credit: Archant

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No women’s leagues in this country were given the opportunity to finish last season. Not one.

It would not be an exaggeration to say the impact on the women’s game has been bigger than the men’s game in many ways.

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We’ve seen a lot of clubs struggling for cash during the pandemic and for some this has meant that they simply can’t sustain a women’s team anymore.

There’s been outcry and in some cases this has been enough to keep the squad going but it exposes a harsher truth; that the game is still very fragile.

Experts in the game announced this week that it could have been set back a decade by the impact of the coronavirus.

It’s difficult to stomach the damage that has been done to the burgeoning sport whilst recognising that it wasn’t anywhere near the biggest problem facing the world as the pandemic broke.

After that extended break, however, it’s good to see some form of normality.

Some top tier games have been used as testing events with crowds being allowed back in for the first time.

Many more though are facing row upon row of empty seats.

Luckily that’s one of the areas in which the likes of Ipswich Town and Norwich City are not facing so many issues with fans allowed back into grounds there, albeit at reduced capacities.

That’s not to say teams like them haven’t lost out in any way.

Officially the results for last season don’t count.

It was as if they never happened and yet the blood, the sweat and the tears were very real for those who were in the middle of it.

A feat that was particularly heartbreaking for town who looked set for promotion to the third tier at the time of the league’s postponement.

It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing that you have to build up all of that preparation work again, pull yourself up and get back at it.

I don’t envy the players for that at all but know they will show a strong front in the face of this latest foe.

There has been good news during this new season though too.

England’s top league, the FAWSL, has become the place to be for some of the biggest players in the world.

The USA’s finest in the form of Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis and Tobin Heath have joined up to top flight clubs.

As has all round superstar Pernille Harder, who joined Chelsea.

There’s also been returns home this season for Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood who moved back from Lyon to join Manchester City.

It’s an exciting time for English women’s football and I can’t help but think that all these eyes on the game will end up helping to bolster the sport more generally, especially with the now delayed Euros arriving in 2022.

They are but human and their presence won’t be able to undo all the damage that Covid-19 has caused to women’s football but at least it gives some hope that what we have on offer in this country is worth watching.

Their presence could also help ensure more of a global fanbase that could help sustain top flight women’s football in this country for some time to come.

Whatever the outcome it’s perhaps more important than ever to be supporting your club in whatever way you feel is most comfortable for you.

I feel like I’ve said that too many times in recent years but it really matters now when many clubs are struggling.

Buy some merchandise if you can or attend a game – if you are safe and happy to do so – or perhaps just share a post online about your club. Every small gesture is helpful.

We’re back this week with the latest Glancing Header podcast in which we look at everything that’s happened in women’s football in the past few months and try and catch ourselves up to the present - so give it a listen!

As ever if you have any women’s football news you can email me katy.sandalls@archant.co.uk or tweet me @katysandalls or @glancing_header.

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