Jayne Ludlow: Wales manager sure of women's football growth

By Rob PhillipsBBC Sport Wales
Ingle one of the best right now - Ludlow

Wales Women manager Jayne Ludlow is optimistic the suspension of women's football due to the Covid-19 virus will not halt the growth of the game.

Ex-England striker Kelly Smith says women's football has been "pushed aside" during the pandemic.

Ludlow says clubs will have to "tighten their belts" but is hopeful women's football will regain its momentum.

"For me the women's game still has lots of growing to do on and off the pitch," she said.

"The bigger picture is changing. There is more interest in the game. It is becoming more of the environment I would have hoped for when I was a young player."

The Women's Super League and Championship were formally ended on 25 May because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Swansea Ladies finished Welsh champions when the Football Association of Wales suspended all football.

Chelsea were crowned WSL champions, while Liverpool were relegated as the Football Association decided final placings on a points per game basis.

That saw Wales team captain Sophie Ingle claim her first League title, while fellow international defender Rhiannon Roberts was relegated from the English top flight with the Reds.

But Ludlow, who won nine League titles and a Uefa crown with Arsenal, believes the game will be strong enough to recover because its roots are now much stronger and attitudes have altered.

"It is the norm now for females to play the game, you don't have to put up with the prejudices. That is the game-changer," she said.

"People talk about the media, the structural and sponsorship aspects which go with it.

"But for me the game-changer long term is that there are more young kids playing because their families are happy for them to play.

"They are not stopped from playing, so the number of players in the next few years will keep rising. That whole mindset of people thinking certain sports are for certain genders is becoming irrelevant."

Ludlow, whose Wales team is scheduled to be back in action on 22 September in a rearranged Euro 2021 qualifier away to Norway, is convinced supporters will return to the game when permitted.

"I don't think we will ever get to the point where the finances are similar in regard to the top level of the Premier League and the female leagues. That is not going to happen," she said.

"I think clubs are just going to have to tighten their belts a bit in the short term. I hope that won't have too much of a knock-on effect to all the other drivers behind the game now.

"I think there are lots of good people in high-level positions in the game that will still want to ensure it carries on growing."

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