As the full-time whistle blew at Wembley, Alex Scott’s emotions came flooding out. Her tears in the studio were ones of relief, celebration and joy - but they were also hugely significant from a former player that has seen the struggle up close.
She watched on in 2009 as Germany lifted the trophy having beaten Scott’s England 6-2 in the final, but the fight to get the female game recognition has been one she has further taken on since retiring. Scott got 140 England caps and played before the dawn of the fully-professional Women’s Super League, which has only truly taken off over the last few years.
But since becoming a star in the studio despite battling against a wave of sexism, she has continued to fight for equality. The Football Focus presenter, in the midst of England’s greatest moment, didn’t forget how hard she had fought back five years ago to get Premier League teams to host games at this tournament.
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"In 2018 we were begging people to host in their stadiums a women's game for these Euros" Scott said as the England players celebrated on the pitch.
"So many people said no. I hope you're all looking at yourselves right now because you weren't brave enough to see the vision," she added.
"I’m not standing up at corporate events in front of sponsors anymore begging for them to get involved in the women’s game because you know what? If you’re not involved, you’ve missed the boat, you’ve missed the train, because look at this… it has finally left the station and it is gathering speed.”
If Scott’s stirring speech made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, then another Arsenal legend Ian Wright was there to hammer home the point. Wright has been so integral in championing the women’s game and celebrating its successes over the years and his celebrations at the stadiums have gone viral over the course of the last month.
Wright and Scott are importantly two media personalities that span both the men and women’s game. For a player of Wright’s standing, with 113 Premier League goals to his name, to be such a believer and supporter of women’s football, especially in the early days, certainly drew a wider audience to the sport.
But now, for the pair of them, it is about making sure that this success isn’t a one-off. The WSL has improved things from a players point of view, but it is still incredibly difficult for fans to get tickets to away matches, even if the prices are good.
“We wanna see people go to the WSL games, we want to make it easier for people to go to the WSL games,” Wright stated. “It’s absolutely about what happens now and grassroots. What we want to do is continue to produce the quality that we’ve seen today.
“This generation of ladies have had to fight and scrap for everything. It’s up to the FA, I think the FA should take over grassroots and get rid of all those barriers to get more people into the grounds.
“For me, someone like the Premier League take over, commercialising the WSL. We need to get more money into the women’s game in order to get more quality teams and start to really blast the women’s game.”
Now pioneers of the studio, both Scott and Wright have been crucial in the development of the women’s game, but even in England’s finest moment, they were able to selflessly put the celebrations to one side and drive home key points. This isn’t the end for women’s football - it is just the start.