Lincoln Ladies general manager hails watershed moment for women’s football

Lincoln Ladies midfielder and general manager Megan Harris hopes March 8 will go down in history as a watershed moment for women’s football.

The date may be universally recognised as International Women’s Day, but for the city’s Women’s Super League club, Friday provided a double boost that could see the sport attain newer heights.

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) have announced they will be admitting female players to its ranks from next season, but the celebrations do not stop there.

Lincoln will be leading from the front in showcasing their skills to a nationwide audience as the FAWSL, which kicks off with Lincoln taking on Bristol Academy on March 23, will be broadcast by the BBC in what is seen as a major step towards bringing in a more mainstream audience.

The broadcaster, following on from its survey that found four out of five British elite sportswomen believing they are underpaid, announced a bumper coverage package for the women’s game, with the FAWSL among a host of high-profile competitions on its schedule.

And midfielder Harris, who bagged the FAWSL’s goal of the season award for a thunder strike against Arsenal Ladies in June last year, felt it was about time the women’s game got its due rewards.

She said: “Today is a landmark day for women’s football, with both the BBC and PFA announcements. With the success of the Olympics, 2012 left the women’s game simmering, crying out for some sustained media commitment to catapult it into the mainstream. Today’s announcement does just that.”

Next season will be the first time in history that the all-male PFA will permit their female counterparts entry. It means all players who are registered with the Women’s Super League will become eligible to join the PFA.

They will also get a chance to mix in with the stars from the men’s game at the traditionally all-male annual PFA awards dinner, but Harris believes it is the principle of recognition that is of paramount importance.

Harris, whose five-member family are all involved in the game within Lincoln, added: “I know the PFA have been working very hard to get female footballers on board, and it is fantastic that we will finally be recognised by such a well established union.

“The recognition and support is what elite female players deserve and will allow the professionalism of the game to grow even more,” she added.

TV puts spotlight on women’s football

Meanwhile, the BBC will screen the women’s FA Cup final live on Sunday, May 26 and provide full coverage of the women’s European Championship in July, with many of Harris’ Lincoln team mates sure to be involved.

Following that, BBC Two will have four FA Women’s Super League programmes providing goals round-ups, highlights and features as well as looking ahead to England’s World Cup qualifiers, which will also be shown live on BBC.

BBC Two will also have two preview shows, fronted by Jacqui Oatley, on May 20 ahead of the women’s FA Cup final and then on July 8 ahead of the European tournament.

“The platform has been built over the last few years, and the potential growth bandied around by those in the know,” Harris said.

“The BBC agreement can now be the catalyst to take it to the next step and give it the commercial exposure it has been longing for.”

Following Friday’s announcement by the BBC, the Football Association’s Kelly Simmons hailed it as “a watershed moment for the game in England,” and Harris was in full agreement.

The midfielder, whose association with Lincoln Ladies goes back to its very inception, said: “8th March, 2013 will be talked about in years to come as a turning point in women’s football. Now it’s down for us to deliver on the pitch and I’m convinced it will go from strength to strength!”