What happened the last time England hosted the European Women’s Championship?

Germany celebrate winning the 2005 European Women’s Championship after beating Norway 3-1 in the final at Blackburn in front of 21,105 people
Host country : England Appointment: July 6-31 Site (s : Old Trafford, Manchester; St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton; Amex Stadium, Brighton; MK Stadium, Milton Keynes; Brentford Community Stadium; Leigh Sports Village; Bramall Lane, Sheffield; Academy Stadium, Manchester; New York Stadium, Rotherham; Wembley Stadium.
Cover: All 31 matches will be broadcast live on the BBC. Click here for more information

“You can smell the football in the air,” said then-Denmark manager Peter Bonde ahead of the start of Euro 2005 – the last time England hosted the European Women’s Championship.

Seventeen years ago, the competition was a much smaller and less glitzy affair than the tournament set to take place across the country this month.

At the time, all 15 games were played at venues in the North West of England, including four at the new home of rugby league side Warrington Wolves.

Indeed, football clubs were not sufficiently interested in hosting matches, according to Alex Stone, England media manager at Euro 2005.

Euro 2022, dubbed the ‘greatest of all time’ by UEFA, promises to be an altogether smoother and shinier edition.

Unlike in 2005, supermarkets are selling sticker albums featuring women’s soccer superstars like Alexia Putellas, Vivianne Miedema and Lauren Hemp.

Sixteen teams – double in 2005 – will compete over 25 days, with 71,300 tickets sold for the opening game between England and Austria at Old Trafford on July 6.

The final will be played at Wembley to a crowd of 87,200 on July 31 – staggering numbers compared to the last time England hosted the event, when just 957 showed up for a game between France and Italy at Preston’s Deepdale ground.

The Women’s Euros have made giant strides. But what happened 17 years ago and what did Euro 2005 bring to women’s football?

The program for the 2005 women's championship
The program for Euro 2005

Work as a postwoman to pay for boots

While the Lionesses, in search of a first-ever European crown, start as one of the favorites this time around, it was a different story when the Euros came to Manchester, Blackburn, Blackpool, Preston and Warrington.

Hope Powell’s side were on a part-time basis and the England boss said before the tournament: “The women’s game here is second class sport.”

Striker Kelly Smith’s club Arsenal might have been England’s best women’s team at the time, but six months before the Euros she had to work as a temporary postwoman to keep herself in boots.

“It’s important that we put on a good show this summer, especially with the reputation the women’s game has in England – or doesn’t have,” Smith questioned. by the Times,external link said at the time.

“There are a lot of negative images that men, in particular, cling to.”

Five months before Euro 2005, Powell took his players to La Manga for warm weather training, but 17-year-old striker Eniola Aluko was not there.

A key member of the team, Aluko stayed home to study for A-levels in psychology, media studies and English.

As the tournament approaches, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks stars such as actor Bradley Walsh were transported to help sell ticketsexternal link price £5 for adults and £2.50 concessions. Tickets for Euro 2022external link ranging from £5 to £50.

The City of Manchester Stadium, which hosted the Commonwealth Games three years earlier, staged England’s first group match against Finland, and a crowd of 29,092 watched the 17-year-old striker Birmingham City’s Karen Carney to score a 91st minute winner.

Moments before Carney’s goal sealed a 3-2 win, the England media manager had traveled to the tunnel area to hold post-match TV interviews.

“When Karen scored, I just ran backwards through the tunnel like David Pleat upside down. I yelled something and ran to the bottom of the tunnel,” Stone recalled.

“The UEFA media delegate who was standing nearby pulled me aside and said ‘this is not what we normally do’. I apologized and explained that I had worked with these players for so long and I knew how much they wanted to shine.

“It wasn’t just three points in a group game. That’s what it could mean for the future development of the sport in England.”

Even at 17, Carney was not the youngest goalscorer at Euro 2005 – which saw Germany win the fourth of six consecutive European titles – an honor that went to 16-year-old Norwegian striker Isabell Herlovsen .

Still, the English teenager has noticed a shift in public perceptions.

“It was the first time I had seen people walking down the street wearing England shirts with our names on them,” Carney said, speaking to the Football Association website in 2018external link.

“That opener at Manchester City was amazing. There were so many fans there.”

Karen Carney celebrates England's winning goal against Finland at Euro 2005
Karen Carney was 17 when she scored England’s late winner in a 3-2 win over Finland at Euro 2005
Karen Carney celebrates England's winning goal against Finland at Euro 2005
Carney has won 144 senior caps for the Lionesses
England players celebrate their goal against Finland at Euro 2005
Despite losing Finland, England did not make it out of the Euro 2005 group stage

England’s tournament, however, ended early after defeats to Denmark and Sweden – both at Blackburn’s Ewood Park – left them bottom of the group.

But despite the national team’s disappointment, women’s football was already gaining a new legion of supporters in England.

A whole new world

Adam Bateman has good reason to remember Euro 2005. It was the first time he paid to attend a football match.

The 21-year-old traveled 50 miles from his home in the Cheshire village of Mobberley to Blackburn to be among the 25,694 spectators at Ewood Park for England’s final group game against Sweden.

The England team manager was held back to landexternal link as fans followed the approach.

Despite the 1-0 loss which saw Powell’s side eliminated, it opened up a whole new world for Bateman. He’s lost count of the number of women’s games he’s attended since.

“Having an international tournament in this part of the country was very exciting at the time,” he said. “Faye White and Rachel Unitt were the players that stood out for me because they were sensible defenders.

“Off the field they were selling flags and I remember the atmosphere was really lively.”

Carney said Euro 2005 helped women’s football grow in England.

“I still get people coming to tell me that Euro 2005 was their first time watching a women’s game and it got them hooked,” she said. “That’s a beautiful thing to hear.”

Now a Manchester United WSL season ticket holder, Bateman was among the first in line when Euro 2022 tickets went on sale, paying £130 to watch eight matches in July.

English supporters at Euro 2005
In 2005, around 70,000 fans watched England’s three group matches at the City of Manchester Stadium and Ewood Park.

When Norway won hearts in Warrington

Midfielder Georgia Stanway told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast that the current generation of England players let off steam during their pre-Euro 2022 training camp watching Love Island.

“We have a little chill room. We turn on the TV and get the beanbags out,” Stanway added.

In 2005, it was big brotherexternal link it was the reality TV ratings winner.

It was also the summer Norway won the hearts of rugby league town Warrington.

A letter published in Warrington Guardian newspaperexternal link summed up the mood after Halliwell Jones Stadium, which had only opened the previous year, was chosen as the venue.

“Good to see that such a prestigious event as Euro 2005 will have matches in the city’s hot new venue,” Orford’s Debbie Sanderson wrote.

England manager Hope Powell (left), captain Faye White (centre) and England men's manager Sven Goran Eriksson during the Euro 2005 group stage draw at the City of Manchester Stadium
England manager Hope Powell (left), captain Faye White (centre) and England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson during the Euro 2005 group stage draw at the City of Manchester Stadium

The first game in Warrington, Germany’s 1-0 victory over Norway, was watched by 1,600 spectators. Ten days later, 5,722 were in attendance for Norway’s 3-2 semi-final win over Sweden.

Norway coach Bjarne Berntsen was quoted as saying:external link “The folks at Warrington have been great, and I think they love our girls.”

Around 120,000 spectators attended the 15 matches over two weeks, all of which were shown live by Eurosport, with the BBC showing England’s three group matches and the final.

Over 3.5 million viewers tuned in to the hosts’ loss to Sweden, accounting for 20% of the English audience on a Saturday night.

It was music to the ears of Stone, who remembers that before Euro 2005 he had to phone the media to tell them the score of England’s games, so he appeared in the morning papers.

However, Euro 2005 was not easy. Five of the 15 games failed to draw crowds of 2,000.

And there was controversy a few days before the final when Lennart Johansson, then president of UEFA, claimed that sponsors of women’s football could benefit from promoting the physical qualities of players.

“Companies could use a pretty sweaty girl playing on the floor, with the rainy weather. It would sell,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

His comments, a year after his Fifa counterpart Sepp Blatter called on players to wear “tighter shorts”, provoked an angry reaction.

Nevertheless, Euro 2005 was hailed as a success.

“I’m sure we’ll take women’s football to another level,” UEFA chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson said at the end of the tournament.

Seventeen years later, Euro 2022 in England promises to be bigger and better than ever.


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