Thursday 13 May 2021 7:31 am

Champions League-chasing Chelsea - and women's football more generally - on the cusp of something extraordinary

As the strangest football season on record hurtles to a climax, blue is most certainly the colour.

While the sky blues of Manchester City contemplate a treble almost on par with their neighbours’ efforts in 1999, Chelsea can claim a double of their own if they beat City in the Champions League final and defeat Leicester in the FA Cup Final.

But this season isn’t just the story of the Blues Brothers. Chelsea – having pipped City to the Barclays FA Women’s Super League title at the weekend – can also claim a historic double by winning the Women’s Champions League when they take on Barcelona in Gothenburg on Sunday.

The significance of that opportunity was demonstrated by coverage of the men’s triumph over Real Madrid last week emphasising that it represents the first time a club has reached the final of both Champions League finals in the same season.

Rarely has the women’s game enjoyed such parity in terms of coverage but few who watched Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby put Bayern Munich to the sword in the semi-final could deny they’d earned the right.

And there’s a real sense that the women’s game is on the cusp of something extraordinary.

On 6 July England’s men could be playing a European Championship semi-final at Wembley but, exactly a year from then, the largest football tournament staged in England since Euro 96 will kick off.

While that tournament – with a little help from Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds – sealed the renaissance of English football sparked by the national side – and New Order – at Italia 90, Women’s Euro 2022 will be a showcase for the abundance of talent in the women’s game.

Women’s Euro 2022 and new WSL TV deals

With the men’s World Cup not starting until November, Women’s Euro 2022 will be the only major tournament taking place next summer and will do so against significant positive developments in the women’s game that mean that the England squad and several leading European stars will already enjoy a far higher profile.

Thanks to new broadcast deals with the BBC and Sky Sports, the Women’s Super League (WSL) – the elite domestic competition and one of the few fully professional women’s leagues in the world – will have the opportunity to reach millions of fans throughout the season leading up to Women’s Euro 2022. 

This, in turn, has the potential to attract the commercial investment that the FA craves to give the WSL long-term financial stability.

The top three players in the world – Denmark’s Harder, Vivianne Miedema of Arsenal and the Netherlands, and England’s Lucy Bronze of Manchester City – already ply their trade in the WSL but the higher profile and subsequent investment will help attract even more of the game’s best to English clubs.

In addition to the increased coverage it will receive from next season, there’s another compelling rationale for businesses to invest in the women’s game. Research from Australia suggests that sponsorship of women’s sport elicits a more positive response among consumers than commercial support of men’s sport.

That combination of increased strength on the team sheet and the balance sheet bodes incredibly well for women’s football in England even before Women’s Euro 2022 kicks-off.

For all involved in a sport that has fought hard for the level of exposure it will now enjoy, to paraphrase World In Motion, now is the time to let everyone see.

Neil Hopkins is global head of strategy at M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment.