Women’s football ‘didn’t exist for four months’ says Arsenal’s Williamson

Leah Williamson of Arsenal Women (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Leah Williamson of Arsenal Women (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo) - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Arsenal’s Leah Williason says she hasn’t felt that ‘women’s football has existed for the past four months’.

The 23-year-old, who won the Arsenal Women’s supporter’s player of the season award for the 2019-20 season, told the Evening Standard: “For the past four months it has felt as if women’s football doesn’t exist, and that is a problem.

“It’s been a struggle.”

Arsenal Women last played on February 28 in the Continetal Cup final against Chelsea as the Women’s Super League season was ended with immediate effect in May due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The fact that we are so easily cast aside when circumstances get tough is an issue,” added Williamson.

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“This is about women stepping out of tradition and doing what they want in any walk of life, let alone sport. But sport is such a good way to acknowledge that we are worth the same investment as our male counterparts, in every industry. As attitudes change, I hope sport can lead the way on that.”

There are discussions about the Premier League taking over the Women’s Super League from the FA.

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Williamson feels that would ‘potentially’ help secure the future of women’s football provided ‘the best interests of the game are at the centre of it’.

“I do think that something needs to change to propel us forwards. We don’t want a short-term fix, we want something that’s secure and stable and going to last for the next generation of women’s footballers,” she added.

“The FA did a great job and set goals about increasing participation. Now it has to be external — it’s no secret that most of the money in sport comes from sponsorship and marketing. We are missing external investors and the TV rights that men’s sport thrive off.”

The Arsenal star then went on to speak about the north London derby at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in November, as the Gunners won 2-0, and how seeing more women’s football on TV and feale pundits helped.

She added: “It was unbelievable, I stepped out and I felt, ‘Wow, I’m a professional footballer’. We’re at a level where people should be able to watch the women’s game in that big-stadium environment.

“Why would you ever think you could be something if you can’t see it? We are not going anywhere. The structure is there, the football is there. As long as people are brave and invest, the game will keep going and surprise us as much as it has already with its growth.

“People need to stop looking at us as second in line. Whether it’s football, rugby or whatever, young girls need something to look up to.”

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