More than a game

Supporting the growth of the women's game

By Moyo Abiona 29 Mar 2024
Women's National League Cup Final: Louis, Chloe, Myla

Fans at The FA Women's National League Final reveal what the women's game means to them

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Last weekend, underdogs Hashtag United claimed The FA Women's National League (FA WNL) Cup thanks to a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United in the final at Luton Town's Kenilworth Road Stadium.

To capture what the game at this level means to the people who live and breathe it, documentary photographer Serena Brown was among nearly 4,000 supporters in attendance at Kenilworth Road.

The Premier League is committed to developing women and girls' football and as part of a £21million investment into the game over the next three years, the League is providing £3m of funding for The FA Women's National League's growth strategy.

Grace, Hashtag United captain
Women's National League Cup Final: Grace Gillard

"I'm absolutely elated [to win the National League Cup] it doesn't get much better than this at the moment. It's special to captain the club in this kind of fixture and this feels like the highest of highs. It's just incredible.

"I've been playing football for 20 years. You absolutely cannot compare the access to football as I’ve gotten older because when I was younger, I was playing in the boys’ teams because there were no girls teams.

"Nowadays there are tonnes of girls teams. These youngsters have gotten it good but I'm happy to see it! Long term there is an importance on continuous funding for the growth of the game."

Norman, Caribbean food vendor
Women's National League Cup Final:  Norman

"I've been running this business for years but have had a residence at Kenilworth Road since Luton Town's promotion to the Premier League. The way the fans have taken to my business has been phenomenal - I couldn’t have asked for more.

"I've grown up in Luton, so it feels great to be seen as a staple in the area. The fans are phenomenal, and the football has brought us together in appreciation for this beautiful game and it’s great to see clubs and fans get behind local businesses.

"The next step in my opinion for ensuring the maintenance of this growth in football starts with schools and ensuring that there's a space for kids to get involved in sport - it will really help!"

Lily, Newcastle United fan
Women's National League Cup Final: Lily

"I love the players and how the supporters just get together to cheer on the team. Newcastle United has been part of my life forever.  I love the [sense of] community that watching football brings me and my family. It brings me so much happiness to see how far the women's game has come. 

"We know the role that we as supporters have to play in continuing this trend. We need this trend to be supported by communities as well as organisations to make sure that there’s always a place for us in football.

"Sometimes the passion takes us on an emotional rollercoaster, but it’s part of what makes sport competitive!"

Sameena, Luton Town steward
Women's National League Cup Final: Sameena

"I've been working at the club for the past eight years. I love working around people, and meeting different people and working here allows me to do this whilst being able to be surrounded by sport.

"I would love to see more women get involved in sport. We can see the level has really gone up and a lot of this is down to the fact that now you can start football at a young age.

"There are good prospects in football and it's important to recognise that this doesn't only have to be playing - there's something for everyone in football."

Sophie, Bella and Betsy, Hashtag United matchday mascots
Sophie, Bella and Bexley

"We're all friends and are from the same football team - we play defence, right-midfield and left-midfield. We've been playing football from the age of 4-years-old!

"We love playing football mainly because we get to make a lot of friends who we get to meet up with, some that we met at football and some that we knew before."

Robin, Newcastle United fan
Women's National League Cup Final: Robin

"The growth of the women's game has been amazing. You get to know the regular people as well as feeling like we have a connection with the players.

"You can go to the side of the pitch to get an autograph, and everyone feels like we can identify with them.

"It was only a couple of years ago they [the players] were buying their own kit so we can see the impact.

"The more money can filter down throughout the leagues, the bigger the impact it will continue to have on young girls that want to play or want to watch."

Julia, fourth official
Women's National League Cup Final: Julia

"Games being held at Premier League stadiums are huge for perspective reasons and envisioning continuous growth in the game.

"I started playing football when I was six and then did my refereeing courses as soon as I turned 14. I slowly stopped playing - shifting my focus purely to refereeing.

"The access to refereeing courses has 100 per cent improved over time. There are more and more courses that exist including female only courses and courses for different groups to ensure that barriers are being removed.

"Not everyone wants to play, and it's important to highlight that there’s still a space for you in the game. Without the referees there are no games, also a lot of people who get injured are able to see refereeing as an option due to the increased visibility!

Marcus, Hashtag United content creator
Women's National League Cup Final: Marcus

"I make video content for Hashtag United. Interest in women's football is definitely on the rise. The more people like us make good and eye-catching content, the more people pay attention. Making videos like documentaries and highlights brings attention to the game.

"The club itself is about family and boosting morale through a game that we all love. It's important that we enlist habits when we are young, and so access to the sport from a young age is huge.

"The way fans consume sport has adapted through generations - especially now being in a content world. But the game remains the same - so it's about how we can best utilise our skills - as a fan, a creator or a player and make the most of it!"

Louis, Chloe & Myla, Newcastle United fans
Women's National League Cup Final: Louis, Chloe, Myla

"We are huge Newcastle fans!

"I've been playing since I was five and I've made a lot of friends through football.

"Growing up we always had a ball at our feet and we've just been football mad. I love the atmosphere and I like the passion that it brings between the fans - especially us Geordies because we are such a passionate bunch."

Ghellor and Amelia-Rose, Hashtag United fans
Women's National League Cup Final: Ghellor

"This is my first women's game and I'm here with my niece. I love the fact that this is a team that supports diversity in football. It very much feels like a space for everyone which is important and it’s nice to see a different perspective on football.

"It's nice to link up with family members and friends, uniting for this one game that we all enjoy - football. Some fans have travelled from Belgium to be here today and it shows the power of football and how it can unite us in these moments."

Lee, Hashtag United fan
Women’s National League Cup Final, Lee

"I wish more people would go and watch the women because they're amazing! The sense of community is growing every single day, and this is capped off with a Cup Final!

"In the last four or five years, the progress has been immense. I went to school in the 80s and girls playing football absolutely wasn't a thing.

"Women playing football isn't laughed at anymore and the only way is up!" 

Helen & Karen, Newcastle United fans
Women's National League Cup Final: Karen and Helen

"I've been a Newcastle fan since I was four-years-old, and I absolutely adore watching both the men's and women's teams. The numbers of people coming to watch the women's team have been crazy and I'd expect nothing less because as a city, we are absolutely football mad!

"It's massively important that girls feel like they're able to see football as an option. I would have loved to have played football in school, but it never was presented as an option - it was always netball or hockey.

"Now as an adult, my young niece loves playing football and it's honestly great to see the shift and breaking down of barriers."

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