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England’s victory provides an opportunity not just for women’s football, but women’s sport

ENGLAND’S SUCCESS at Euro 22 should provide a positive platform for women’s sport in the United Kingdom according to Vanja Cernivec, General Manager of the London Lions’ women’s basketball team.

Captivating a nation, the Lionesses have achieved an unprecedented feat – winning the first European Championship for England.

The victory is a culmination of tireless work in gaining the deserved respect for the women’s game, with this tournament representing the most-watched Women’s Euros in history.

The 87,192 fans who attended the final on Sunday broke the record for the highest attendance of any European Championship final – across the male and female tournaments, respectively.

The success comes as a landmark study from basketball team the London Lions shows that 1-in-4 (25%) females in the UK feel like progressing in a sport, either at player or management level is not viable for them as there are no role models that look like them.

Adding to this, 15% of females say that when they watch UK sport, they hardly see faces that look like theirs and it dissuades them from wanting to attend or partake in sports.

The Lionesses have delivered an electrifying performance throughout the tournament serving as true role models for young sportswomen – from Leah Williamson’s assured delivery in defence, to the tenacity of Beth Mead in attack.

There is hope that the knock-on effects of this triumph will not just be for women’s football but for all women’s sport in the UK. The FA’s aim for 75% of schools to provide access to girls’ football and for 75% of grassroots clubs to have at least one girls’ team is an important step to take, but there are women’s sports that continue to feel neglected in the UK .

Although it is estimated that 1.3 million people play basketball on a regular basis in the UK, it still ranks 12th for grassroots funding over the last decade.

Serving as the nation’s second most popular team sport after football, the level of government funding it receives indicates a strong disparity between its social value and the corresponding level of monetary backing.

Between 2013 and 2017, the sport received just £9.25 per participant in funding, compared to £70.72 for cricket and almost £60 for rugby, despite a much higher number of young people playing basketball.

On a wider scale across women’s sport, stand-out clubs such as the London Lions provide inspiration for the next generation, cementing their status as one of the most successful female teams in the UK.

By winning a domestic clean-sweep last season, the team was able to achieve invincibility in the WBBL Championship – winning all 34 domestic games by an average margin of 40 points.

The Lionesses have made a legacy that must change the opportunities available not just for women’s football, but for diversity in sport across the board.

Cernivec, also Global Director of London Lions Academy, said: “Yesterdays’ win has served as a truly momentous event for women’s sport. The success comes amidst a period where it’s frustrating to still be discussing a lack of female representation in sport.

“In my previous role with the NBA league office, I had many opportunities to work with young players at grassroots as well as elite level and it was wins such as yesterday’s that will cement confidence across the league to inspire women globally. Helping young girls around the world to develop and provide them with a platform to change their lives through basketball is a huge part of my role at the Lions, and I’m excited to further emulate results such as yesterdays’.”

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