England’s women’s World Cup semi-final defeat by the USA trounced the Grand National in the ratings to become the most-watched sports programme of the year by more than 2million viewers.
With a peak of 11.7m, the Lionesses’s 2-1 loss was also the most-watched programme of 2019, beating the top dramas and entertainment programmes.
Estimates had suggested around 10m may tune in to watch Phil Neville’s side take on the 2015 World Cup winners, but the audience on Tuesday night eclipsed even those expectations to highlight the surge of interest in women’s football.
England Women broke the TV record as 11.7 million tuned in to watch semi-final defeat
The average audience of 8.8m was 2.3m more than the next closest challenger — the Six Nations rugby clash between Wales and England in February — and also far outweighed audiences for the FA Cup and England’s Euro 2020 qualifiers.
The match was viewed a record 1.7m times on iPlayer and the BBC Sport website.
Demonstrating the power of terrestrial TV, the Champions League final between Tottenham and Liverpool on BT Sport was watched by 6.5m.
Former FA chief executive Martin Glenn hailed the figures as proof that women’s football had transformed from being ‘an interesting Olympic-type sport to an absolute mainstream sport’.
Ellen White scored her sixth goal of the tournament to equalise for England in the first half
United States striker Alex Morgan’s first-half header proved to be the winner as they won 2-1
But he said the next step for women’s football would be more exposure on terrestial television and playing in the elite stadiums.
He added: ‘What’s been different about this tournament is the sheer number of people watching the Lionesses on TV.
‘What will make the product of the Women’s Super League more attractive is getting more exposure in the millions — being on terrestrial TV and making sure the games are played in the elite stadiums that the men play in.’
England’s Steph Houghton had the chance to equalise late on but saw her spot kick saved