England’s Euro 2022 semi-final triumph over Sweden attracted a peak audience of 9.3 million viewers on BBC One, making it among the most-watched television broadcasts of the year.
The figures do not include the many viewers who will have watched using the BBC’s online streams, or in public spaces such as pubs or fanzones. The audience were rewarded with a comprehensive 4-0 victory at Bramall Lane, featuring Alessia Russo back-heeling the ball into Sweden’s goal.
International women’s football is now a consistent ratings winner, leaving other sports envious of the enormous interest it is attracting. By comparison, the BBC’s live coverage of the world athletics championships peaked at 1.3 million on Saturday, while this month’s Twenty20 international cricket match between India and England attracted a peak audience of 980,000, despite being free to watch on BBC Two.
Euro 2022 has attracted millions of British viewers – even for matches that have not involved England or Northern Ireland – suggesting there is an enormous appetite for free-to-air live sport in the UK.
Growing interest in the sport can be tracked in the viewing figures. When England’s women’s team reached the final of the 2009 Women’s Euros they attracted 1.4 million viewers on BBC One. The BBC will be expecting 10 times that audience when the Lionesses play in this year’s final at Wembley at 5pm on Sunday.
The record British television audience for a woman’s football match was set during the 2019 World Cup, when viewing figures peaked at 11.7 million people as England lost to the USA at the semi-final stage.
The challenge for women’s football is how to retain media interest after the tournament is over. Sky and the BBC are hoping to convince more viewers to watch coverage of the domestic English Women’s Super League.
BBC Two attracted half a million viewers when it showed the Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur women’s derby in May.