Fara Williams on the Lionesses legacy and the improvements the women's game still needs

Fara Williams on the Lionesses legacy and the improvements the women's game still needs
Lioness World Cup final to bring new era for women’s sport in …

Fara Williams has said she is "immensely proud" of the Lionesses World Cup performance but has noted the different ways the women's game needs improvement to continue this momentum for future generations.

The entire country got behind England as they reached the final where their campaign ended in heartbreak after they were defeated 1-0 by Spain.

However, the side managed by Sarina Wiegman has had an impressive run after they won the Women's Euros at Wembley last year.

Williams, the 39-year-old ex-England player was a Lioness for 18 years and had an impressive club career winning two WSL titles, some of the clubs she played for include Chelsea, Charlton, Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal and Reading.

Fara Williams #4 of England celebrates her penalty kick goal during the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada Semi Final match between England and Japan at Commonwealth Stadium on July 1, 2015, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Photo by Todd Korol/Getty Images

In 2016, Williams collected an MBE in the 2016 New Year Honours list and is now a popular pundit where she commentated for the BBC at the Women's World Cup this summer, these achievements have solidified her legendary status in the women's game.

Now, Williams has collaborated with Sports Direct as a brand ambassador to improve how the sport is represented - with 44 per cent of fans thinking women’s sport should be better represented in the media.

The former footballer has told Indy100 her thoughts on the Lionesses's performance at the World Cup, how representation has changed over the years and the importance of improving the representation in women's football from the grassroots.

How did it feel to see England in the final, and the country getting behind the Lionesses?

"Obviously immensely proud to see the Lionesses reach a World Cup final, a year on from the success of the Euros in England.

"It was an incredible achievement to go two finals back to back the way they did, and I think they changed the perception of the women's game and put some respect on it finally, after so many years."

From when you started playing football professionally up until now – have you seen a shift in attitude when it comes to representation?

"Since I played to now, I think there's been a huge shift in mentality and how people view the women's game and see it.

"There wasn't any respect or visibility for it before. I think the fact that there are now broadcasters that showcase it, brands that want to represent some of the players and highlight them - not just individually but collectively.

"The representation of that has certainly changed and shifted over the years and is in a really good place, obviously still growing. So yeah, it's been really positive since I played and then since retirement."

What areas of women’s football need improvement to continue the momentum the Lionesses have created from the Euros and the World Cup?

"I think there are a few areas that need to improve in the women's game to continue the momentum of the Lionesses’ success.

"The grassroots end of the game is something that I'm passionate about, trying to improve the quality that's down there. I think obviously, in the women's league structures, it's very top-heavy with the Lionesses, but in order to create a competitive, more balanced league and a future for the game, there are areas that need to be improved within that."

Williams has noted the importance of improving the women's game at grassroots level.Sports Direct x Getty Images

"And then obviously each individual club and the way that they're supported as a whole has to be improved, in terms of staffing, facilities etc.

"But it’s certainly changed, and there's obviously more teams now that are more supported than there ever has been before.

"So it's in a good place but still room for improvement and, you know, hopefully, the steps after the success of the Lionesses will continue to improve."

With the Women’s World Cup creating a buzz online, how has social media played a role in helping people wake up to the tournament and women’s football in general?

"Yeah, I think social media has played a huge part in helping to grow the women's game and to grow interest in it. I think it's been a good way of showing individual personalities from each of the Lionesses, obviously club football as well - it's helped with that.

"So yeah, it's played a huge part and now the fact that there's more females being seen on these platforms obviously highlights and increases interest moving forward."

How is the Sports Direct Equal View campaign working to improve representation?

"Sports Direct’s Equal View campaign is working to improve the representation of females in football.

"It’s a huge move in terms of showcasing sportswomen and footballers in general, and the fact that it's going to be more equal in terms of showing men and women."

Williams has discussed how Sports Direct's Equal View campaign is seeking to improve representation in the women's gameSports Direct x Getty Images

I personally don't think I've seen it done before and it is massive progress that will allow young girls and boys to dream of being a professional footballer.

What would your younger self make of the increasing representation in the women’s game?

"I unfortunately didn't get the opportunity to see female role models when I was growing up, to aspire to be like any of them - now there are so many good female role models within the game and sport in general, that young girls can look up to and actually dream.

"And not just dream, but those dreams can become a reality. So yeah, I would have certainly been buzzing as a younger me seeing all of it."

How did you think England performed in the WC Final and the tournament overall?

"I think England's performances in the World Cup, throughout the tournament, were a bit up and down. I think they played against opposition that we clearly could see they weren't used to playing against.

"So obviously, giving them different challenges in terms of what they had to play up against.

"But I felt they dealt with challenges really well for the tournament, they had a depleted squad going into it. I think a lot of us didn't expect or think that they would go as far as they did, given the fact of all the injuries they had going into the tournament, but I certainly think they showed maturity.

"They showed a togetherness that allowed them to underperform and win games. And I think that's something that Lionesses have never been able to do before.

Players of England pose for a team photo prior to the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Final match between Spain and England at Stadium Australia on August 20, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

"So I think it just showed great strength and character within the squad. Of course, in the final we all wanted the Lionesses to win and bring back the World Cup, but it wasn't to be and on reflection, I think the better team won - credit to Spain.

"But I wouldn't say their preparation was any different. I just think the execution of the game plan was better than ours on the day. Games are made on moments, they had their moment and took it.

"But as I said before, the fact that the Lionesses got there - they certainly changed the perception of the game and put huge respect on women's football in general, which I think can only be positive moving forward.

"They captured a nation yet again, new followers, new interest, and that's only going to help with the growth. We saw the amount of fans that attended, the millions that watched worldwide. So it proves that there is an interest in our sport."

Visit here to view the imagery that Sports Direct has captured in partnership with Getty Images, to improve the representation of football fans online in the wake of the World Cup."

Sign up to our free Indy100 weekly newsletter

Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings.

The Conversation (0)