Despite a drama-filled game, England vs Cameroon broke ratings records.
Finally, it seems the message is getting through: football is football, whether you’re watching 11 men boot a ball around a pitch or if it’s women doing the dribbling. And the 2019 World Cup appears to be the watershed moment where many realised that the only thing separating the two versions of the sport was how much those playing get paid for their services. At least, that’s judging by the history-making amount of people who’ve chosen to watch how England fare in France.
A record number of viewers tuned in to watch England’s dramatic clash with Cameroon on 23 June, which saw the Lionesses progress to the quarter-finals – but not without controversy. The BBC recorded a peak audience of 6.9 million people, breaking the previous record that had been set only two weeks earlier, when England faced Scotland in their first group game.
An additional 640,000 people also followed the action on BBC iPlayer.
However, despite England winning the match 3-0, the mood was soured by frequent conflict with between the two teams in a game that saw the Cameroon side threaten to walk off pitch several times after disagreeing with VAR calls.
Phil Neville, manager of the Lionesses, was so incensed, he told post-match interviewers he was “ashamed” of Cameroon’s behaviour and that it set a poor example for women’s football.
“If that was my team - and it will never be any of my players - they would never play for England again,” Neville said, speaking to BBC Sport.
“At times, we probably didn’t know whether the game would continue. It didn’t feel like football.
This is going out worldwide. I didn’t enjoy it, the players didn’t enjoy it. My players kept their concentration fantastically, but those images are going out worldwide about how to act, the young girls playing all over the world that are seeing that behaviour. For me, it’s not right.”
Nevertheless, England are now looking ahead to their upcoming clash with Norway. So far they’ve yet to lose a game and have only conceded one goal, whereas Norway were beaten by France in the group stages and qualified for the quarter-finals on penalties. With England the favourites to progress to the semis, is another record-breaking watch on the horizon?