What it would mean for Women’s Football in Ireland if the National Team Qualifies for 2023 World Cup

Cara Conboy

Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw has named her 28-player squad to take on the 2023 Women’s World Cup play-offs. Having never qualified for a major tournament before, let’s have a look at the benefits that would follow a successful campaign this time out.

Globally, women’s has experienced monumental changes and success throughout the past decade, and Ireland is no different. In particular, the last five years have been ground-breaking for Women’s football in Ireland. A short five years ago, women’s football was almost unrecognisable in Ireland with the treatment of players in the women’s national team being so poor that it led to a player strike in 2017. Female players were being treated like “fifth class” citizens and made to change in toilets on the way to matches while male counterparts had access to excellent standard changing rooms and facilities. At the time, thirteen senior players spoke out in the hope of changing the treatment for future players, and in the five years since, a historic agreement was reached that both senior men’s and senior women’s players here in Ireland would be paid equally. In addition, the new four-year title sponsor of Sky has shown the further improvements that have been made by the FAI in their increased support for women’s football.

It is well known that success in any sport on an international level almost always results in an increase in participation, and football is no different. Following the England women’s recording breaking run in the 2019, in which they reached the semi-final stage, the FA reported that over 350,000 more women have since begun participating in organised football of some sort across the nation. Along with this, the FA promised further improvements to changing and training facilities across the country to further encourage young women to take up the sport. The season prior to the remarkable 2019 World Cup run, the Women’s Super League in England turned professional for the first time, marking another huge step forward in the women’s game. This in turn has been hugely advantageous to England’s national team as their squad is now filled with fully professional athletes, unlike before. Since the Super League turned professional, the English national team has experienced their most successful period in their history, reaching the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup and winning Euro 2022, becoming the first English senior team to win a major tournament since 1966.

Qualifying for the World Cup can only be a good thing for Ireland. Success in the play-offs will surely increase the interest in the national team and in women’s football as a whole. Hopefully that will lead to improvements in facilities here, similar to those seen across the Irish Sea.