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

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

“You can smell the football in the air,” said Peter Bonde, Denmark’s then boss, before the start of Euro 2005 – the last time England hosted the Women’s European 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 the rugby club Warrington Wolves.

That was because there was not enough interest from football clubs in hosting matches, according to Alex Stone, England’s media official at Euro 2005.

Euro 2022, voted ‘biggest ever’ by UEFA, promises to be a slicker and shinier edition.

Unlike in 2005, supermarkets sell sticker albums with superstars of the female game such as Alexia Putellas, Vivianne Miedema and Lauren Hemp.

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

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

The Women’s Euros have progressed by leaps and bounds. But what happened 17 years ago and what did Euro 2005 do for the women’s game?

The program for the Women's Championship 2005
The program for Euro 2005

Working as a postman to pay for boots

While the Lionesses in search of a first-ever European crown started out 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 squad was part-time and the England boss said before the tournament: “The women’s game here is a second-rate sport.”

The club of striker Kelly Smith, Arsenal, was perhaps the best women’s team in England at the time, but six months before the European Championship she had to work as a temporary postman to keep herself going.

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

“There are a lot of negative images that especially men cling to.”

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

Aluko, an important member of the squad, stayed home to revised for her A-levels in psychology, media studies, and English.

As the tournament approached, stars of Coronation Street and Hollyoaks, such as actor Bradley Walsh ., took over were driven off to help sell ticketsexternal link £5 for adults and £2.50 concessions. tickets for Euro 2022external link range from £5 to £50.

The City of Manchester Stadium, which had hosted the Commonwealth Games three years earlier, hosted England’s opening game against Finland, and a crowd of 29,092 spectators watched 17-year-old Birmingham City forward Karen Carney score a 91st-minute winner .

Moments before Carney’s goal sealed a 3-2 win, the England media officer had gone to the tunnel area to host post-match televised interviews.

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

“The UEFA media representative who was nearby took me to the side and said ‘that’s not what we normally do’. I apologized and explained that I had worked with these players for so long and that I knew how much they wanted to shine.

“It wasn’t just three points in a group match. It’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 – securing Germany’s fourth of six consecutive European titles – an honor that went to 16-year-old Norwegian striker Isabell Herlovsen.

Still, the English teenager noticed a change in public perception.

“It was the first time I saw people walking down the street in English sweaters with our name on it,” said Carney, speaking on the website of the football association in 2018external link

“That opening game at Manchester City was incredible. 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 against Finland at Euro 2005
Karen Carney celebrates England's winning goal against Finland at Euro 2005
Carney won 144 senior caps for the Lionesses
England players celebrate scoring against Finland at Euro 2005
Despite beating Finland, England failed to make it out of the group stage at Euro 2005

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

But despite the disappointment of the national team, the women’s game has already won a new legion of fans 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 game.

At the age of 21, he traveled 50 miles from his home in the Cheshire village of Mobberley to Blackburn to be one of 25,694 people at Ewood Park for England’s final group game against Sweden.

England’s team coach was stopped to get to the groundexternal link as fans lined the approach.

Despite the 1-0 defeat that eliminated Powell’s team, a whole new world opened up for Bateman. He has lost count of the number of women’s competitions he has attended since then.

“To hold an international tournament in this neck of the woods was very exciting at the time,” he said. “Faye White and Rachel Unitt were the players that stood out to me because they were no-nonsense defenders.

“Outside the ground they were selling flags and I remember the atmosphere was very upbeat.”

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

“I still get people coming up to me and saying that Euro 2005 was the first time they ever watched a women’s match and they got hooked on it,” she said. “That’s good to hear.”

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

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

When Norway conquered hearts in Warrington

Midfielder Georgia Stanway has told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast that England’s current squad is blowing off steam during their pre-Euro 2022 training camp by watching Love Island.

“We have a small relaxation area. We turn on the TV and get out the beanbags,” added Stanway.

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

It was also the summer that captured Norway’s hearts in the rugby town of Warrington.

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

“It’s good to see an event as prestigious as Euro 2005 will have matches at the city’s new location,” wrote Orford’s Debbie Sanderson.

England coach Hope Powell (left), captain Faye White (center) and England gentlemen boss Sven Goran Eriksson at the Euro 2005 group stage draw at City of Manchester Stadium
England coach Hope Powell (left), captain Faye White (center) and England gentlemen boss Sven-Goran Eriksson at the Euro 2005 group stage draw at City of Manchester Stadium

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

Norway coach Bjarne Berntsen was quoted as saying:external link “The people in Warrington have been amazing and I think they love our girls.”

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

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

That was music to Stone’s ears, who recalls having to call the media ahead of Euro 2005 to tell them the score of England matches so that it appeared in the morning papers.

However, Euro 2005 did not all go smoothly. Five of the 15 games failed to attract 2,000 spectators.

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

“Businesses could take advantage of a sweaty, pretty-looking 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 response.

Nevertheless, Euro 2005 was called a success.

“I am sure we will 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 before.