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Last Updated: Monday, 13 June 2005, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
FA hails Euro 2005 as big success
By Phil Harlow

England fans cheer on their side against Sweden
The FA says the number of fans at England games exceeded expectations
The FA has hailed Euro 2005 as a huge step forward for women's football, despite England's early exit.

England - who hosted the tournament - were eliminated in the group stages but the FA said Euro 2005 was part of a long-term plan to develop the sport.

"The crowds and media coverage have been phenomenal," an FA spokesman told BBC Sport.

"No-one made rash predictions - nobody said England needed to win for the tournament to be classed a success."

Defeats against Sweden and Denmark cost England dear after an opening-game win over Finland had raised hopes.

But combined attendances of almost 70,000 for England's three games and encouraging television audiences have left the FA optimistic about the game's future.

The BBC audience for the crucial third match against Sweden peaked at three million on Saturday.

"We're very happy with the viewing figures thus far and we hope it continues for the rest of the tournament," said a BBC spokesman.

BBC TELEVISION VIEWING FIGURES
England v Finland:
2.6m average, 2.9m peak, 12.12% audience share
England v Denmark:
1.7m average, 2.3m peak, 11.5% audience share
England v Sweden:
2.4m average, 3m peak, 15.2% audience share
"The quality of the football the team played was obviously instrumental in these figures," added the FA spokesman.

"Hopefully a fair number of those people will come back and watch when the team kick off their World Cup qualifiers in September.

"When we bid for the tournament three years ago we did see this as part of a long-term plan to assist the development of the women's game here.

"I don't think anybody can take anything away from what the coaches have achieved.

"The feeling is one of 'let's put this down to experience'. We are playing catch-up with some of the top teams in the world but the gap is closing.

"Looking ahead to the 2007 World Cup, I'm sure the players will be much stronger for the physical and emotional experience of playing in a major tournament."




SEE ALSO
England squad guide
03 Jun 05 |  Women


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