The nickname has really caught on among the millions thrilled by England’s surge into the finals of the women’s Euros. So when it was suggested that calling the team the Lionesses – rather than the Lions – is sexist, the roar of disapproval was deafening.
Dame Maureen Lipman led the backlash against the idea, branded as ‘absurd’ by some, saying that ‘The Lions’ are in fact a male rugby team, while at the same time sharing her excitement at the Lionesses’ ‘dazzling’ performance.
The Coronation Street actress, 76, wrote in to BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on Wednesday, the morning after the England team thrashed Sweden 4-0 in the European Champtionships semi-finals at Sheffield’s Bramall Lane.
She was one of more than 11 million fans who watched Alessia Russo and her teammates as they roared to victory, and said she had almost entirely lost her voice from cheering the team’s ‘gorgeous football’.
‘Cheetahs, never mind lions,’ she said of their performance. Others said the Lionesses was a ‘great name’ that was far more appropriate for a group of women showing excellent teamwork, with some noting that in the wild, lionesses are far more ‘formidable’ than their male counterparts.
The backlash came after a discussion about the game on Woman’s Hour yesterday morning. The show’s presenter Emma Barnett read out a message from a listener which questioned the use of the nickname.
Telling guest Anita Asante – a former England star – that she had a ‘challenge’ for her, she asked: ‘Do you like the term ‘Lionesses’? Why not ‘Lions’, why do we have to call them ‘Lionesses’?’
Laughing in apparent surprise Asante, who represented England 71 times, defended the name. She said it was ‘one of those things’ and that we ‘gendify everything, don’t we?’
Asante added: ‘But to be fair, it’s been a great branding tool for the national team and a way for fans to relate and connect with this group of players.’
Emma Barnett (pictured left) asked former England women’s international Anita Asante (right) if she thought The Lionesses nickname should be changed to the Lions. Asante, who was capped 71 times for England, said she likes the nickname and thinks it is a good branding tool
Dame Maureen Lipman (pictured) led the backlash against the ‘absurd’ idea, while others said Lionesses was a ‘great name’
It’s England vs Germany! Eight-time European champions will take on Lionesses in Sunday’s final clash at Wembley
England’s Lionesses will face Germany in the final of Euro 2022, after their opponents beat France 2-1 in their semi-final match on Wednesday.
The Germans, eight times European champions, will take on an England team on a high after their 4-0 thrashing of Sweden in Tuesday’s other semi.
Prolific striker Alexandra Popp fired Germany ahead in the 40th minute, sneaking in from the left to meet a fine cross from Svenja Huth and beat Pauline Peyraud-Magnin with a crisp finish.
The lead lasted less than four minutes, however, as France levelled when Kadidiatou Diani unleashed a fierce drive on the turn which rattled off the post and flew in off the back of Germany keeper Merle Frohms.
France had the better chances after the break, putting intense pressure on the German defence, but they could not find a way through.
Diani set up Selma Bacha, whose goal bound shot was blocked by Kathrin-Julia Hendrich and then Wendie Renard’s header at the back post was well saved by the alert Frohms.
The lively Diani then intercepted a poor back pass and burst forward but Frohms kept out her low drive from a tight angle.
Popp won the contest with her sixth goal in five games in the tournament, powering a superb header home from another excellent Huth cross in the 76th minute.
France continued to push, but with increasing desperation – Bacha went close with a curling first-time effort and Clara Mateo saw an effort fly just over the bar.
But in the end it was Popp who proved the difference and England will need to find a way to stop her if they are to win their first title against the country which has dominated European women’s football for so long.
Miss Barnett’s response was brief, pointing out her former international status and said she wanted to hear her take on the matter before moving on to another segment.
Later in the programme, Miss Barnett told listeners that many of them had been ‘getting in touch with us about how we refer to the Lionesses’.
She read out a series of messages from listeners criticising the idea of a name change – including one from Coronation Street star Dame Maureen, 76.
The actress explained her objections by saying ‘the Lions are a male rugby team’, and pointing out the positive connotations of a ‘pride of lionesses’. The British and Irish Lions are an international rugby team, while the England men’s footballers are nicknamed the Three Lions.
Dame Maureen went on to describe how she had cheered on the team the night before, praising their ‘magnificent teamwork, clean, fresh, gorgeous football, amazing flair and workload’.
She added: ‘Dazzling cheetahs, never mind lions. I am so excited.’
Other listeners whose messages were read out made the point that in the wild, lionesses are known to be harder-working than males.
‘We should stop worrying about the Lionesses being somehow a patronising name,’ wrote one. ‘In nature, lionesses will always be lionesses, not just lions, and they are every bit as formidable. Many would say more so.’ The listener concluded that ‘Lionesses is a great name’ for the team.
Another said: ‘Lionesses is actually a very appropriate name because in the case of lions in the wild it’s the females that do most of the hunting… while the males mainly just laze around.’
A third person said: ‘In nature, Lionesses will always be Lionesses, not just lions – and they are every bit as formidable, many would say more so.
‘They hunt, they protect fiercely, they work together – they are in my view more proactive than the male of the species. Lionesses is a great name.’
England’s run to Sunday’s final against Germany has seen women’s football reach hitherto unknown levels of popularity, with much talk about how it will inspire greater numbers of girls to take up the game.
Lionesses stars in Tuesday’s 4-0 victory – including Russo, who scored with a cheeky backheel, and Beth Mead – often use the term in social media posts.
A BBC spokesperson said: ‘As a topical programme, Woman’s Hour often reflects listeners’ comments and asks guests to respond as one part of longer interviews.
On this occasion Anita Asante, Robyn Cowen and Jacqui Oatley were on the show to mark the Lionesses’ victory, and to discuss what it means for women’s football.’
England beat Sweden 4-0 last night in the Women’s Euro 2022, with an audience of over 9million watching
Meanwhile, the BBC announced the official viewing figures for England’s stunning win over Sweden, with 11.3million people watching the victory.
The total TV audience reached 9.3m, while an extra 2m viewers streamed the match through BBC apps, as the emphatic display shot up the viewing charts to become one of the most-watched events on television this year.
And the Lionesses put on a performance deserving of the huge viewership as they blew away one of women’s football’s traditional powerhouses in Sweden in a spectacular 90 minutes.
Goals from Beth Mead, Lucy Bronze, Alessia Russo and Fran Kirby stylishly sent the Lionesses through to Sunday’s Wembley final against either France or Germany.
And the best goal of the game came from super-sub Alessia Russo, who somehow managed to backheel the ball through Swedish keeper Hedvig Lindahl’s legs for England’s third of the night.
The enormous viewing figures continue to prove the growth in support that women’s football has undergone in the UK in recent years, regularly reaching millions of viewers.
The Lionesses now have the chance to beat Germany and lift the trophy at Wembley
The viewing figures for the dramatic match trumped the numbers boasted by Eurovision despite a 20% increase 2021, which drew a peak UK audience of 8.9m, and the 3.9m who tuned in for Paul McCartney’s three-hour set at Glastonbury.
And it even drew level with the 11.2m viewers drawn to the televised celebrations of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, although that number refers to the average attendance, as opposed to the peak audience estimated at more than 13m.
This is perhaps helped by the fact that much of the Women’s Super League (WSL) is shown on free-to-air TV, making it far more accessible than its male counterpart, the Premier League.
And it is testament to how fair the sport’s popularity has come that England’s last appearance in a major Women’s international final in 2009 was only watched by 1.4m viewers, a figure dwarfed by the support the Lionesses have received this summer.
But as impressive as this growth is, it is still 400,000 short of the record numbers for an England Women’s international, recorded when the Lionesses lost to perennial winners the USA in the semi-finals of the World Cup three years ago.
The FA will be confident that this Sunday’s showpiece finale – against either Germany or France – will not only end in a victory at Wembley for the hosts, but yet another smashed record, too.
The task now that football’s governing body is faced with is to translate the evident support into provision at a grass roots level, in order to help provide young women and girls across the country with a path into a sport with undeniable support.
This tournament has already seen spectator records shattered, after the overall Women’s Euro’s attendance record was smashed whilst the competition was still in the group stages.
Dancing for a nation: Schoolgirl, eight, who was filmed dancing along to Sweet Caroline as she celebrated England women’s historic Euro 2022 semi-final win says she wants to follow in the footsteps of her heroes
A little girl whose celebrations after the Lionesses reached the Euro 2022 final went viral says she wants to follow in their footsteps to become a footballer.
Schoolgirl Tess Dolan, eight, was seen partying hard as she celebrated the England women’s historic tournament win.
The footage of the girl, from Wakefield, West Yorks, in absolute raptures was caught on BBC footage and broadcast live to the nation.
Tess was wearing a full England kit for the clash at Sheffield’s Bramall Lane and was picked out by the camera operator as she belted out the Neil Diamond anthem.
Speaking to the BBC this morning she said: ‘Going through my mind was, when I’m older I want to be a footballer.
‘I was looking at how they were celebrating and thinking of how I was going to celebrate.
Tess Dolan, 8, has become an Internet sensation after being filmed dancing at the England Women’s game last night in Sheffield
Schoolgirl Tess, eight, went viral after her celebrations went live to the nation on the BBC
Young England fan Tess, 8, spotted going wild to Sweet Caroline at Euros had no idea she was being filmed: ‘It was crazy’
‘Normally they look at the big screen and, you can see, I’m on telly, but didn’t know I was being filmed!’
Ian Wright also appeared on the show and said her celebration would go down in history.
He commented: ‘When I saw Tess celebrating yesterday, I thought, those scenes are iconic scenes.
‘The girls, when they see that, they will be inspired by that. When they were younger, they couldn’t have the dream you are having right now.’
Tess Dolan in her Scotton Scorchers football kit where she currently plays youth football
Tess Dolan before the England v Sweden game where she became famous herself celebrating
England players celebrate after team-mate Fran Kirby scores their side’s fourth goal of the game during the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 semi-final match at Bramall Lane
He followed up: ‘I just want to say when you see the girls playing, does it make you think oh I could do that one day? Does it make you feel that?’ Tess said: ‘Yeah, definitely.’
Tess, of Knaresborough, North Yorks., was among the 28,000 frenzied fans inside Bramhall Lane to cheer England to victory on Tuesday night.
But despite a dominant performance on the pitch – including a cheeky 68th-minute back-heel by her favourite player Alessio Russo – Tess was the real star of the show.
As England gaffer Wiegman conducted her post-match interview with a tv reporter, cameras panned to the crowd and showed Tess’s now-iconic dance moves.
Within minutes, her mum Sam Dolan’s phone was ‘going mental’ from pals who had seen the clip on tv and across social media, where it quickly went viral.
Such was the popularity of the clip, she appeared on breakfast tv this morning (Wed) where she was interviewed by England and Arsenal legend Ian Wright.
Tess said: ‘It was the best football match I’ve been to so far.
‘It was amazing. I didn’t know I was on tv until my mum got lots of text messages from people. I was just dancing and enjoying myself. I was singing Sweet Caroline and then my mum started getting messages.
‘It’s really weird to be on the tv, but it feels amazing.’
The Lionesses won 4-0 to set up a date against either Germany or France in Sunday’s Wembley final as they bid to win a first-ever European Championship title.
Manchester United forward Alessia Russo scored England’s third, threading her backheeled shot through the legs of two Sweden players and into the net.
England threw off a shaky start in the semi-final when Mead turned sharply in the box and fired home after 34 minutes. They doubled their lead through Lucy Bronze’s header not long after the restart and Russo’s audacious effort was followed up by Fran Kirby’s chip of Sweden keeper Hedvig Lindahl.