Chelsea Women’s central defender Millie Bright has discussed the continuing development of the women's game and hardships she has gone through as a player…
Since joining Chelsea from Doncaster Rovers Belles in 2014, Bright has played a significant role for the Blues and has developed into a respectable leader for both club and country. In her latest column for BBC Sport, she speaks highly of the new financial investments but highlights that it must be shared around.
‘After Barclays sponsoring the Women’s Super League in a multi-million-pound deal, and Boots sponsoring the homes nations and Republic of Ireland women’s teams, it shows you that respect levels for the game have never been greater.,' Bright states.
‘Sponsors don’t jump on board just for goodwill, it’s because they see a commercial value in the sport, and those recent examples are massive for the growth of the game.'
However, she insists that her career has not been plain sailing and knows that women’s football has a long way to go, despite the progress it has made thus far.
‘The news about Barclays sponsoring the WSL [Women’s Super League] came in the same week that a top-tier club Yeovil Town Ladies went into administration, so it shows you that some clubs still struggle.
‘I know all about that struggle based on my time at Doncaster, where I was part of the team that in 2013 was told after one game in the season that we would be relegated because we couldn’t meet the financial criteria to stay in the top tier. Manchester City took our place instead.
‘We had to play a full season knowing that we were going down and that is something I don’t want any team to experience again. It was heart-breaking. It felt like we weren’t respected or even wanted in the league, purely based on money. It should be about the level you play at, not how much money you have. That season, we just felt, what’s the point?
‘The game is not just about the top four or five teams, it’s the whole league that needs to be stable and developing. Without the other teams, we are nothing.
‘But we are getting to the point, where, like the men’s game, playing football is not only a legitimate career, but enables you to live really well and perhaps even set you up for life. It will allow little girls to tell their mums and dads they want to professional footballers, and not have their dreams dismissed so easily.'
Bright also spoke about her previous injury struggles before turning professional.
‘Players need proper training and medical facilities but there have been stories of players who have had to rely on private medical care, or even crowdfunding, to fix an ACL knee injury.
‘If you’re a footballer, your club should be able to help you with medical needs, and that’s where the women’s game gets a lack of respect. It doesn’t reflect well on women’s football at all.
‘Every year there has been progression with the England central contracts; we’ve just won the SheBelieves Cup and if we won the World Cup you’d expect another step up. There always has to be growth, but that only comes with success, which in turn has led to the recent investment from sponsors.
‘That’s why the Barclays announcement feels like a tipping point and has shown how women’s football is heading in the right direction for a long time to come. But it needs to be shared around so the whole game benefits.’