By ANTON RIPPON
The 2019 press pack who followed England women to the FIFA World Cup provided a watershed moment, both in terms of national print coverage and the number of female journalists.
The tournament has become one of the world’s biggest sporting events and as the women’s game enters a new era, it will engage more and more sports journalists.
In the vanguard was The Telegraph’s Katie Whyatt, who made history when she became the first women’s football correspondent on a national newspaper and who last week was named sports journalist of the year by Words by Women.
— Words by Women (@WBWAwards) December 10, 2019
But where next? SJA members now know the four contenders to stage the 2023 edition. Brazil, Colombia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, are hoping to stage the competition in four years’ time – Australia and New Zealand are making a joint bid – and their submissions will be subject to inspection visits and assessments early next year before the hosts are selected at the FIFA Council meeting in Addis Ababa in June.
The 2023 finals will be held between 10 July and 20 August. The qualifying competition will be held in 2021 and 2022.
After more than 200 broadcasters, many of which gave certain games prime-time spots, covered the 2019 tournament, FIFA estimated that one billion viewers watched the games with TV records broken in the UK, France, Germany, China and the USA.
England’s semi-final defeat by the USA attracted 11.7 million UK viewers, which was 50.8 per cent of the available audience and a record for women’s football in the UK. The previous best was the 7.6 million that watched Phil Neville’s team beat Norway in the quarter-finals.
Worldwide, almost 59 million watched hosts France meet Brazil in a last-16 game, making it the most watched women’s football match of all time. The final between the USA and the Netherlands drew 5.84 million on Dutch TV with 88 per cent of viewers tuning in, the biggest TV football audience in that country since the 2014 men’s World Cup semi-final.
According to Fox News, US viewership of the 2019 women’s World Cup final was 22 per cent higher that for the 2018 men’s final.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: “France 2019 was certainly a watershed moment for women’s football, and now it is FIFA’s responsibility to take concrete measures to keep fostering the game’s incredible growth.”
Domestic women’s football in the UK also received a boost this season after the Football Association launched its new live streaming platform, exclusively dedicated to the women’s game.
The FA Player, which is free to use and available online and via a dedicated mobile app, gives live access, both in the UK and internationally, to over 150 domestic women’s football fixtures throughout the season including all live Barclays FA WSL matches and, for the first time, a live match from each round of the FA Women’s Championship.
Meanwhile, BT Sport and BBC continue their regular coverage with over 30 live games televised across the 2019-20 season.
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