England’s 2–1 victory over Germany in the final of the Euros last month made history with a record crowd of 87,192 for a European Championship final and a peak TV audience of 17.4 million. It was the most watched women’s football game of all time.
Looking back, it felt like something had changed. There is no turning back. Interest and attitudes towards women’s football is on a positive and upwards trajectory. A month on, we wanted to see how this has manifested in search behaviour for England's heroic players to women’s football more generally.
Most searched-for players
In terms of absolute search volume, Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and manager Sarina Wiegman, were the most searched for of the Lionesses, with approximately half a million searches each in July*.
Hot on their heels was Manchester City striker Chloe Kelly, who netted the winner for the Lionesses. It was a historic moment. Not only was it the first major international trophy for England’s women’s football team, it was the first for the nation since 1966 (which, funnily enough, was also against Germany).
Surprisingly, England’s more experienced stars, such as Ellen White, Lucy Bronze, defenders Alex Greenwood and Millie Bright, experienced less searches than we would have expected.
Instead, the players that generated the most search interest were those who were either involved in key moments throughout the tournament or had prominent roles within the team.
For example, Beth Mead was player of the tournament, Chloe Kelly scored the winning goal, Leah Williamson was captain, and Sarina Wiegman was manager. It makes sense that there would be increased interest in them.
How has player search changed over time?
As you’d expect, there was an explosion in people searching for the players across the tournament, with unprecedented numbers of searches being made.
When comparing previous search peaks from June 2019’s Women’s World Cup to July 2022’s Euros, we can see just how popular the Lionesses have become in such a short space of time.
The player with the highest increase in terms of percentage points was Manchester United forward Alessia Russo. In 2019, at the last World Cup, she received around 140 searches. Now compare that to this tournament. She was searched around 301,000 times, representing a staggering increase of 214,900%.
One of the main reasons for the huge boost in interest is down to the simple fact that she made her international debut for England in 2020. She now has a more public profile.
In second place was Chloe Kelly, who had previously been searched around 720 times during the 2019 World Cup. For the 2022 Euros, she was searched around 450,000 times (representing an increase of 62,400%).
Again, although she had made her first senior team appearance for the Lionesses in 2018, she also didn’t feature in the 2019 World Cup. Still, after making history and bringing football back home, it’s fair to say that interest in Kelly would naturally spike.
Established players like Beth Mead, Ellen White and Lucy Bronze, who were prominent in the previous tournament, all increased considerably this year, too. Mead was searched 550,000 times in this tournament, compared to 40,500 in the World Cup (1,258% increase). White received 301,000 searches versus 135,000 in 2019. And Bronze bagged 368,000 searches, compared to 246,000 over the same period.
In fact, all players were more searched for in 2022 than in 2019, when the last major international women’s football tournament took place. There was one exception. Manchester United’s forward Nikita Parris, who has been an England international since 2016, remained level with around 90,500 searches.
Although she was part of the history-making squad, she unfortunately didn’t feature in any of the games throughout the tournament. Her profile this summer has invariably been lower than those who got to play.
The wider game
With such a boom in search interest for England's star players, we also wanted to see whether interest in women’s football more generally had also increased. While it’s still early days to make any definitive conclusions, our analysis shows some possible interesting future trends that may be worth keeping an eye on.
We’ve taken an initial look at how the number of searches have changed over the past 12 months (July 2022 vs July 2021) for key phrases like:
- Women’s Super League football
- Women’s football boots
- Women's football league near me
- Women’s football tickets
As you can see from the graph, there’s been huge increases in the space of a year. For example, Women’s Super League queries are getting around 37,000 more searches this year versus the same time last year (representing a massive 900% increase).
Search has also increased for tickets, teams and fixtures, suggesting that more people are interested in experiencing live women’s football, which the FA finally made fully professional in 2018 (the Super League was founded in 2010).
There’s clearly also been a knock-on effect in interest in participation, too, with ‘league’ keywords increasing by approximately 12,000 searches. Likewise football clothing and equipment-related searches like ‘kit’, ‘boots’ and ‘shorts’ increased by 820, 3,000 and 790 respectively.
And that’s only data for July. There’s no reason why some of these search terms will increase throughout August and beyond. Think summer holidays, back to school and weekend activities – more and more girls and women are likely to be taking up and enjoying football.
The 2022 Euros was a watershed moment in the history of women’s football. When we look back at this tournament we’ll see that it did indeed signify the start of a new era. The sport is more than just mainstream now. It’s become something to aspire to, with young girls and women across the world eager to lace up their boots and pursue a career in the beautiful game. And if not, then as fans.
We’re excited to see how demand and interest changes over time, and who knows, perhaps we’ll create one of our trusty search trends dashboards to keep you all in the loop.
*Search data is roughly approximated – Google does not release the exact figure of how much someone/something is searched, however, they provide good indicators of popularity over a timeframe.
** Data sources were unable to gather search volumes for Lauren Hemp and therefore we do not know how her popularity has changed throughout the years.