Why European Championships are at perfect time for women’s game - Zoe Johnson

Zoe Johnson feels next summer’s delayed European Championships comes at a “crucial time” for women’s football in this country, and she is delighted South Yorkshire will be part of it.

The women’s game has felt the knock-on effect the Covid-19 pandemic had on the men, so the tournament scheduled for England last summer will now take place next year, with the draw on October 28.

Bramall Lane is due to host three Group C matches, and the nearby New York Stadium three in Group D.

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Coming on the back of the first season of a broadcast deal which has rocketed the Women’s Super League’s profile is a good thing, Sheffield United women’s general manager believes.

England's players will contest the European Championships on home soil next year. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

“It’s coming at such a crucial time with the growth of the women’s game,” she says. “It’s just what we need to keep the interest and inspire girls.

“The women’s game was already growing but it’s gone to another level with the broadcast deal. The marketing has gone up a lot of levels over the years and the Sky Sports coverage in particular just professionalises it.

“Just to be able to go on Sky Sports News and see the tables, the live updates, the transfers, the press conferences, it has a real impact. The game’s being taken a lot more seriously.”

Sheffield has long been a production line for female talent, but Johnson says big tournaments help, and home ones even more so.

GOOD TIMING: Sheffield United general manager Zoe Johnson Picture: Lynne Cameron/The FA/Getty Images

“Everybody has people they look up to in any walk of life and to see the players playing just increases the appetite,” she says. “We noticed a dramatic increase in the numbers attending our Wildcats centres after the last World Cup, not so much the Olympics. It affected the whole feel around the area because quite a few Lionesses are from here. Having those role models had a big impact.”

Bramall Lane will host three group matches at next year's European Championships Picture date: Laurence Griffiths/PA