For those that enjoy football, the women’s game is starting to genuinely earn its place in our hearts. For those that don’t, declaring in a sexist manner that they aren’t as good as the men, it might be worth remembering that women’s football was just as popular as the men’s game until the Football Association decided to ban it. As a result, men’s football continued to receive investment and viewers, whilst female players were restricted to taking part in friendly games when they could. Had the FA not banned it, it’s possible the quality would be on a par nowadays.
Comparing men’s football and women’s football is, in many ways, like comparing apples and oranges. The years of development that the men’s game has seen over the women’s, to say nothing of the amount of money in one rather than the other, means that it is generally a much more skilful version of the sport. If a men’s professional team were to take on a women’s professional team, the men would probably win. Yet how does that pan out when the two teams are pitted against their own genders? What are the results in competitive tournaments?
Looking at the Men’s Results
First things first, then, we’ll have a look at the results that the men have achieved over the years. In order to keep things simple and fair, we will only be looking at the two major tournaments that the women take part in as well, rather than looking at any tournament that the men have ever played in. That means limiting things to the World Cup and the European Championship. It goes without saying that the men have played in more than the woman because of the FA’s ludicrous decision to ban women’s football for a few decades, but we’ll look at them anyway.
First things first then and a look at how the Three Lions have got on in the tournament that many consider to be the pinnacle of men’s football. The likes of the Champions League might well rule the roost in terms of club football, but on the international stage the World Cup really is the best of them all. Here is how the men have got on in it since the first one that they took part in:
|1974||West Germany||Did Not Qualify|
|1978||Argentina||Did Not Qualify|
|1982||Spain||Second Group Stage|
|1994||United States of America||Did Not Qualify|
|1998||France||Round of 16|
|2002||Japan & South Korea||Quarter-Finals|
|2010||South Africa||Round of 16|
With one win on the board across the 19 World Cups that the men’s team have played in, it is simultaneously not good enough for a country with England’s footballing heritage whilst also being an impressive feat compared to many other countries. Of course, we also need to find a way to quantify the success that the Three Lions have achieved compared to the Lionesses. In order to so, we’re going to assign points based on the round of the competition that the team has reached. The points work as follows:
- Win: 10 Points
- Finalists: 5 Points
- Semi-Finalists: 4 Points
- Quarter-Finalists: 3 Points
- Last 16: 2 Points
- Group Stage: 1 Point
- Did Not Qualify: -5 Point
With this system in place, the England men’s team notched up 57 points, but lost 15 for not qualifying in 1974, 1978 and 1994. That gives the men’s team a total of 42 points in the World Cup, using our system. In order to make it fair, given the fact that the men’s team has been able to play in more World Cups than the women, we then divide that by the number of tournaments they could’ve played in, which is 19. That gives the Three Lions 2.21 points from the World Cup.
Next up comes the European Championship, which is the tournament that pits the best national teams on the European continent against one another. The first ever one took place in 1960, but England decided not to enter. They have attempted to qualify for the competition every time it has taken place since then, meaning that we can once again use our scoring system to determine how well they’ve performed in it. Firstly, here’s the England performance across the 15 European Championships that England have attempted to qualify for:
|1964||Spain||Did Not Qualify|
|1972||Belgium||Did Not Qualify|
|1976||Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Did Not Qualify|
|1984||France||Did Not Qualify|
|1988||West Germany||Group Stage|
|2000||Belgium & Netherlands||Group Stage|
|2008||Austria & Switzerland||Did Not Qualify|
|2012||Poland & Ukraine||Quarter-Finals|
|2016||France||Round of 16|
In spite of the smaller pool of major teams to go up against, the Three Lions appear to have done worse in the Euros than in the World Cup. Is that just how it looks, or does it pan out when we look at our points system? They have achieved 25 points, but lose 25 points for the five occasions that they failed to qualify, resulting in a total of 0, which remains 0 when divided by the 15 tournaments that they could’ve played in.
Over the two tournaments, therefore, the England men’s points total is 2.21.
Looking at the Women’s Results
The Lionesses, which is the nickname given to the England women’s team, has been governed by the Football Association since 1993, having previous come under the jurisdiction of the Women’s Football Association. The first international game played by the women’s team was in 1972 when they took on Scotland. Interest in women’s football was re-ignited in the wake of the men’s team winning the World Cup in 1966, which is what led to the formation of the WFA in 1969. The hope was that the organisation would be able to organise the women’s game more effectively.
The World Cup
There is a degree of confusion when it comes to the World Cup. That is because Harry Batt formed an independent team in 1969 to play in the Fédération Internationale Européenne de Football Féminine, which went on to compete in two FIEFF World Cups that were held in Italy in 1970 and then Mexico a year later.
Back then, women were still banned from playing on English Football League grounds, which the Football Association rescinded when UEFA recommended that national associations begin to incorporate the women’s game. As a result, the women’s team has been eligible to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup eight times to date.
|1991||People’s Republic of China||Did Not Qualify|
|1999||United States of America||Did Not Qualify|
|2003||United States of America||Did Not Qualify|
|2007||People’s Republic of China||Quarter-Finals|
Using the same points system that we established earlier, the women racked up 14 points, but lost 15 for failing to qualify three times. That gave a total of -1.
In many ways, the performance of the women in the European Championship is the opposite of the men’s team, insomuch as they reached the final at the first time of asking and have generally reached the latter stages of the competition, to say nothing of the fact that they won it in 2022. Here is how their performances play out:
|1984||England, Italy, Noway & Sweden||Final|
|1989||West Germany||Did Not Qualify|
|1991||Denmark||Did Not Qualify|
|1993||Italy||Did Not qualify|
|1995||England, Germany, Norway & Sweden||Semi-Finals|
|1997||Norway & Sweden||Did Not Qualify|
Using the points system we’ve created, the women’s team put 34 points together, losing 20 for failing to qualify. That results in a total of 14, which becomes 1.07 when divided by the 13 versions of the European Championship that the women’s team could’ve qualified for. The overall points total for the Lionesses is 1.07.
Using the system that we created, the men’s team achieved a total of 2.21 points across the World Cup and the European Championship. The women’s team, on the other hand, racked up 1.07 points. In that sense, the men’s team is more successful than the women’s. Of course, our points system was entirely arbitrary in its assignation. If we were to make it -1 for failing to qualify rather than -5, the totals for the two teams in the competitions we’ve looked at would be as follows:
- Men’s World Cup Total: 54
- Men’s European Championship Total: 20
- Men’s Overall Total: 74
- Women’s World Cup Total: 11
- Women’s European Championship Total: 30
- Women’s Overall Total: 41
The men could have played in 19 World Cups and 15 European Championships, meaning that their new total would be 74 divided by 34, equalling 2.17.
For the women, the total is 41, gained across eight World Cups and 13 Euros. With that in mind, we divide 41 by 21 for a new total of 1.95.
That is much closer, albeit with the men still prevailing. When you consider how much longer the men’s game has been going for than the women’s, with a strong argument that the women’s game is still well behind the men’s in terms of professionalism, it is not as big a difference as you might imagine.