Interest in women's football in Germany is down -- as per the German Football Association (DFB) -- the number of girls teams has (roughly) halved since 2010, crowd numbers in the Frauen-Bundesliga aren't moving up and even for the women's national team, attendances have been in free-fall for years. The data is helpfully presented in a booklet from the DFB in which the lack of visibility and women in positions of power within the federation are also noted. The booklet ("Frauen im Fussball Fast Forward") lays out a five-year plan to increase the number of women in the sport from players to coaches to referees, and all the way to those in management in the federation.
While we have seen other governing bodies institute a full-time model for the top tiers of their respective leagues -- the English FA with the Women's Super League, the Italian FA (FIGC) with Serie A and the Spanish FA (RFEF) with Liga Ellas -- the nature of 50+1 means that the DFB can't simply tell all Frauen-Bundesliga clubs that they need to be full-time. Indeed, there is only so much the federation can do beyond incentives and investment.
When speaking to ESPN after the final, director of national teams at the DFB, Joti Chatzialexiou impressed the need for clubs to want to improve their women's programmes. "It's more about the clubs, they have to do it by heart and not by telling you have to do it. This is something my grandfather always told me: if you do something by heart, you will do it perfectly, which is why we can't go to the clubs to tell them they have to do it. We have to find solutions together."
Whether or not Opa Chatzialexiou was a women's football fan is unknown, but for those within the women's football world, far too many have seen clubs forced to run a women's team with players given the bare minimum from their disinterested or put-upon owners. And it is never a recipe for success.
Ahead of Sunday's final, coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg hammered home the need for a lasting impact from the tournament regardless of the result. Waking up on Monday, the simple fact that Germany lost 2-1 to England at Wembley should make no difference to her petition for "More equality of talent, better stadiums ... more spectators and better kick-off times."
As it is, the games are sporadically available outside of Germany through a subscription service, ata football, with those in Germany able to watch some on Magenta Sport -- which requires a German T-Mobile account -- while others are picked for broadcast. The need for a better broadcast deal that all but slaps the public in the face with the home league is clear.
Off the back of the Euros and Germany's return to a major tournament final for the first time in six years, there should at least be a boom of interest for the national team, with their semifinal against France drawing a TV audience of over 12 million: a 47% market share. By all accounts, the coverage of the team back in Germany has gone down well, and maybe defeat in the final will help endear them to the German public once more.
On Monday morning, newspapers across Germany were splashed with headlines of "handball shame" and England pulling a fast one at Wembley, the narrative firmly set by the media. The incident occurred with the match still 0-0 in the first half, when Marina Hegering's effort at a corner struck Leah Williamson's raised arm. The contact was reviewed by the VAR (Video Assistant Referee), but was not deemed enough of an infraction to summon the referee, Kateryna Monzul, to the screen on the sideline.
The lack of review was raised by Voss-Tecklenburg in her postmatch press conference, with the coach requesting answers about the lack of communication and clarity, explaining that she would want the same should the roles have been reversed. The incident and quotes from the coach and her players -- all questioned heavily in the mixed zone after the match -- seized upon by media around the world to run the story of German fury and English robbery.
It's quite the thing to inspire crowds to invest their interest, not least when coupled with the largely profitable football the team have pedalled this summer.
But of course, the men's leagues are returning -- running on an adjusted calendar for the upcoming winter World Cup in Qatar -- and keeping the women's team fresh in the mind of the public will be the next task, with the men's Bundesliga (kicking off Aug. 5) a natural distraction. Worse still, the next two fixtures on the docket for Germany are away trips to Turkey and Bulgaria in September, with the next opportunity for them to play at home not until the first week of October.
By that point, the memories of Germany's intelligent defensive play and purposeful attacks from the Euros will be fading in the minds of the casual fans.
Although the DFB may not be able to achieve their lofty goals for 2027, this summer will stand as a reminder that the German women's national team who have eight European crowns, two World Cup titles and Olympic gold from 2016 have merely been slumbering for the past few years. Now, they're awake again and ready to get back to winning ways. After all, we are only 353 days away from the start of the 2023 Women's World Cup.