The Women’s Euros, heading into the 12th iteration of the tournament in less than a month, have come a long way since just four teams participated in the first games in 1984. This year will have a few exciting developments, including a fourth expansion from 12 to 16 teams and a bidding war over broadcasting rights in England, but the last cycle of the tournament saw a hefty amount of growth in and of itself.
The 2013 Women’s Euros, hosted in Sweden, saw the first fan zones in European women’s tournaments, shattered attendance records, and broadcasting milestones. Fan zones have been a staple of the men’s Euros for years, providing as incredible an atmosphere outside the stadiums as inside them.
And finally, they were introduced for the women’s game. In 2013 there were zones in all seven Swedish host cities, which ended up catering to 250,000 fans — just 50,000 fewer than were in the stadiums. Swedish FA commercial and host city manager Maria af Geijerstam called them the most successful part of the tournament: “They created a new, great feeling for the whole period, not only when the matches were played. You could see the matches there, of course, but with the excellent weather that we had, it made a second venue for the cities.” There was progress inside the stadiums, too. Attendance records were broken across the country; a record number for a women’s Euro attended the final at the Friends Arena (41,301), a new average attendance record was set (8,676), and there was the highest aggregate attendance of any women’s Euro (216,888) by over 86,000 people. The 2009 Euros, in comparison, maxed out at a total attendance of 129,000. And those not in the stadiums? They broke records, too — both those showing and those viewing. Eurosport became the first broadcaster to sign up as a women’s Euro sponsor and broadcast all 25 matches live. In England, BBC broadcasted every England match for the first time, with supplemental radio coverage, as well as 16 matches in total. (This year, England matches will be on Channel 4, the first time they will feature live international sport. Between varying coverage that reached 6 continents, 133 million viewers tuned in for the tournament — more than double that of the previous one — with 15.9 alone tuning in for the final between Germany and Norway. One thing, however, did not change during the 2013 Women’s Euros: the winner. Anja Mittag’s only goal of the tournament, in the 49th minute of the final against Norway, was enough to propel Germany to their 6th straight and 8th overall European victory. (They actually won all three of their knockout stage matches by only one goal, after scoring three in one and none in two of the group stage.) They’ll be heading into this summer’s Euros ranked #2 in the world, only slightly behind the U.S., so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them lift the trophy yet again — but they’d have to get past a 3rd-ranked France team that hasn’t lost a single match this year and is stacked with players from Champions League finalists Lyon and PSG.Attendance is likely to keep growing, as the trend across women’s football generally implies, and broadcast abilities will continue to increase; whether a team besides Germany will take home the trophy, though, is yet to be seen.