Millie Bright has urged clubs in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League to ensure they capitalise on the surge of interest generated by the World Cup.
England’s semi-final defeat by the United States in July was the most watched TV broadcast of the year so far, with nearly 12 million people in Britain tuning in.
It was another big step forward in the popularity of the women’s game, but Chelsea and England defender Bright knows plenty more hard work is ahead.
The 26-year-old told PA news agency: “Coming straight back to Sheffield, I had a welcome home from my village, which was amazing.
“I was so disappointed that I didn’t have anything to give back but they ultimately didn’t want a medal, they said they were just so proud of how well we played and what we’ve done for their daughters and their sons.
“We’ve started a new urge for young girls to get involved in football and for everyone to get on board. We’ve got new audiences supporting the game and wanting to come to games, but this is the most crucial part.
“Off the back of something so good, we have to push again and I think that’s every club taking responsibility and really pushing audiences and ticket sales and getting people involved. This is the time to do it.”
The WSL season is certainly starting with a bang, with the Manchester derby next Saturday being played at the Etihad Stadium, while there is a waiting list for tickets for Chelsea’s clash with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge the following day.
A new streaming platform launched by the FA, meanwhile, will make it possible to watch every game for free.
“I’m super excited,” said Bright. “Obviously these are the games that you want to play in; big stadiums, big crowds. It’s an honour to play in front of these crowds and to be privileged enough to play at Stamford Bridge.
“We really appreciate the support and the fans – that’s what makes this happen and pushes the women’s game even further.”
Failing to reach the World Cup final was a huge disappointment for England but Bright believes the support from the public can drive them on to bigger and better things.
“It’s the little things like people asking for photos in the street, and it’s not always the little kids, it could be literally anyone,” she said.
“And it’s just that recognition, people saying ‘well done’, it goes a long way and it’s really appreciated by all the players.
“Even when we’ve not won anything and people are taking this much interest, it makes you think, ‘Wow, what could we actually do if we did win a trophy or if we did get to that final?’.
“That’s extra motivation now to go on and, not just with England but at club level, go on and win trophies and make the game exciting, make the performances top drawer to generate even more interest because we’ve got people’s attention.”
Last season was up and down for Chelsea, who reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and performed strongly against eventual champions Lyon but failed to qualify for the competition for the forthcoming season after only finishing third in the WSL.
Bright has high hopes for this campaign, saying: “There’s obviously three trophies up for grabs for us this year so that’s our aim. We want to win, we want trophies, we want to perform at the top level.
“We kind of found our rhythm towards the end of last season and our momentum. In the Lyon game, if we’d have taken a couple more of our chances it could have been us in the final.
“I think we proved ourselves, we proved our level and that we’re capable of playing against the best teams and ultimately beating them.
“We just didn’t get the result but I think it’s important to keep the Champions League level this year even though we’re not competing in it and make sure we get the qualification for next season.”
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