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Sensemaker: Superlative win

Sensemaker: Superlative win

What just happened

Long stories short

  • Oleksiy Vadaturskyi, an icon of Ukrainian agribusiness, was killed by a Russian rocket strike as the first grain ship since the start of the war prepared to leave Odesa.
  • Rishi Sunak tried to keep his bid for prime minister alive by promising a 4p cut in UK income tax by 2029.
  • 329 years after her conviction in Salem, Massachusetts, Elizabeth Johnson was cleared of being a witch.

Superlative win

Sunday’s European Championship final win by England’s women was the country’s first major football trophy since the men won the 1966 World Cup. Both victories were at Wembley, required extra-time, and were at the expense of Germany, or West Germany as they were in distant Cold War times.

There the similarities end. The men’s win restored English football’s birthright delusion. England were on top of the world and had better bloody stay there – or else. Alf Ramsey’s players each collected a £1,000 win bonus. In retirement Bobby Charlton started a travel agency and Geoff Hurst, the hat-trick hero, was briefly a door-to-door salesman. It was the end, not the beginning, of something special. For five and a half decades the men’s team has toiled in 1966’s shadow.

But as England rejoiced on Sunday night, pundits predicted an “explosion of growth” for the women’s game: a beginning, not an end, for parity of esteem and rising income. The mood at Wembley was civilised, convivial and finally exultant when Chloe Kelly scored what turned out to be the winning goal, then pulled off her shirt and twirled it round her head: a homage to the USA’s Brandi Chastain, whose own sports bra reveal at the 1999 World Cup was a global sensation (Chastain tweeted Kelly in solidarity).

England scored 22 goals and conceded only two en route to their first major international title, won sceptical (and worse) men over to the joys of women’s football, and made billboard stars of Beth Mead, Alessia Russo and others, as well as their Dutch coach Sarina Wiegman, who picked the same starting XI in all six matches and followed a routine of remarkably effective substitutions.

The story in numbers…

  • The match was watched by 17.4 million on the BBC excluding those watching online or in public places – a record for a women’s game in the UK.
  • Total prize money earned by England was £1.75 million. First prize for the men’s Euro 2020 – which England lost to Italy – was £8.45m.
  • According to the Times, Wiegman earned a £200,000 win bonus on top of her £400,000 salary, which is a sixth of what Gareth Southgate is thought to be on as men’s manager.
  • Uefa says 47 per cent of spectators up to the final were women; nearly 100,000 were children; the final drew a European Championship record crowd of 87,192; and a tournament attendance total of 574,875 destroyed the previous record of 240,055, at Euro 2017.
  • England’s players are on central FA contracts worth £15,000-£30,000 a year and earn between £20,000 and £200,000 per season with their clubs. But many male England players earn in a week that peak women’s figure of £200,000 per year.
  • The men’s domestic and international Premier League TV rights from 2022-2025 sold for £10.4 billion. Last year, the FA struck a deal with Sky and the BBC for Women’s Super League rights for £8m a season.

But it’s not all about money. Players and pundits are unanimous that for women’s football to exploit Sunday’s cathartic victory, attendances at Women’s Super League matches – the top tier of the club game – need to rise from their current average of 1,924. The Football Association has set a target of 6,000 by 2024. But the potential for bigger crowds already existed before England’s win. This year’s women’s FA Cup final drew a record 49,094. In Spain, Barcelona games have exceeded 90,000.

The other message driven home at Wembley was that all barriers to participation for women and girls in PE, clubs, parks and playgrounds must be removed. The benefits, as we have seen, would be vast: an audacious Russo back-heeled goal, a Chloe Kelly shirt twirl, an eruption of happiness around a team that captivated women, men and above all children.

Archive note: from 1921 to 1972, women’s football was banned from FA-affiliated grounds.

Listen to Paul Hayward’s Sensemaker Audio from the final at Wembley on the Tortoise app tomorrow.


This Tory leadership race isn’t Shakespeare – it’s summer-season panto

Nick Hytner

Many have called the ousting of Boris Johnson and the subsequent leadership race “Shakespearean” – Nicholas Hytner thinks that’s too generous


China’s mortgage strike
What if the Chinese economic miracle turned out to be a ponzi scheme based on prepayments for tens of millions of unfinished flats? Domestic demand was supposed to take over from foreign as the engine of the Chinese economy, and to be led by demand for housing that would juice a giant private construction sector and the public sector through land sales. Instead, the country’s biggest builder just missed its own deadline for restructuring $300 billion of debt. Other giant developers have defaulted too. Tens of thousands of buyers are withholding mortgage payments in the belief their money is being stolen, and a reported 65 million new flats stand empty. The demographic context is an ageing and declining population, and the political context is Xi’s tyrannical surveillance state, which he hopes will hand him a third term in October. It’s still probable, but at the rate things are unravelling in China, surely not inevitable. 


Chips go bananas
A year ago the world – and especially its car industry – was dependent on Taiwanese microchip makers for 90 per cent of its supply. Lesson learned: don’t outsource critical electronic infrastructure to a country China plans to invade and which in any case constitutes a single point of failure in global supply chains. We noted last week’s approval by the US Senate of $52 billion in funding for domestic chip makers as part of the Chips and Science Act. That has now been approved by the House and awaits Biden’s signature. But it’s only part of a broad trend to inshore chip production as a strategic capability and leave China out of it. Germany has earmarked €10 billion for 32 domestic semiconductor projects. Japan has approved nearly $7 billion. The UK hasn’t quite got the memo. Last month its biggest chip-maker was sold to a Dutch firm wholly owned by a Chinese one.  

The 100-year life health, education AND GOVERNMENT

Archie Battersbee
It’s been nearly four months since 12 year-old Archie Battersbee was found unconscious by his mother in their Essex home. In those four months his family, with support from the Christian Legal Centre, has pulled all possible levers in the UK legal system to maintain life support for Archie, whose doctors say he is “brain-stem dead”. The courts have repeatedly ruled that it is not in his best interest to remain on life support and that it should be withdrawn. At 2pm today, his doctors are meant to do just that. But as this lands in your inbox the UK’s Court of Appeal is holding a last minute hearing in response to an interim measures injunction from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (UN CRPD), asking the government to keep Archie alive while the committee considers the case. The family appealed to the committee and to the UK’s health secretary, Steve Barclay, at the end of last week, arguing that removing life support would violate Archie’s rights as a disabled person. Hollie Dance, Archie’s mother, has said the family “will not give up”. 

Our planet CLIMATE AND geopolitics

Peak glacier melt
Europe’s glaciers are on track for their highest seasonal mass loss since records began 60 years ago. In early July the Marmolada glacier in the Dolomites collapsed at its highest point, killing 11 climbers. Later last month the Morteratsch glacier in eastern Switzerland was assessed as losing 5 cm of its thickness every day. Not enough snow last winter was followed by too much heat this summer – during the July heat wave the freezing point, which is usually between 3000 and 3500 metres in summer, rose to 5,184 metres in Switzerland. The result is the disappearance before our eyes of what remains of the cryosphere in Europe. The trend isn’t irreversible. Europe’s glaciers would start regrowing again before 2100 if the world could commit to low enough emissions to keep warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, or less. Big if, but big reward.


Kosovo-Serbia border protests
A dispute over car number plates between Kosovo and Serbia led to protests and gunfire over the weekend, raising fears of wider unrest in the Balkans as Western allies focus on the war in Ukraine. Ethnic Serbs in the north of Kosovo blockaded roads before a new law due to come into force today made government-issued number plates mandatory for all residents (many Serbs in Kosovo still use Serbian-issued plates). The government has agreed to postpone the law by 30 days, but tensions were high enough for the Nato-led mission in Kosovo to issue a statement saying it was “prepared to intervene if stability is jeopardised”. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after a Nato bombing campaign halted a Serbian onslaught against Kosovo Albanian separatists. Serbia, alongside Russia and China, still refuses to recognise Kosovo’s independence. Similar protests took place last year, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stirred wider tensions in the region – Serbia has refused to join Western sanctions against Moscow despite its ambitions to join the EU. 

Week ahead


1/8 – Funeral for former Northern Ireland first minister David Trimble; BT and Openreach union members set to strike for 24 hours; criminal barristers strike action continues, 2/8 – National Institute for Economic and Social Research publishes quarterly economic forecast; Campaign for Real Ale holds Great British Beer Festival, 3/8 – ‘Kenmure Street three’, arrested during an immigration raid protest, to be charged with public order offences; 2021 statistics on deaths related to drug poisoning released, 4/8 – Sky News hosts Conservative leadership election debate at 8pm; Bank of England’s monetary policy committee rate-setting meeting, ONS publishes estimates of long Covid prevalence in the UK; National Cycle to Work Day, 5/8 – Boris Johnson is officially prime minister longer than Theresa May; members’ postal ballots received for Conservative leadership election; Brighton and Hove Pride festival weekend begins; hosepipe ban takes effect in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight; Edinburgh’s month-long fringe festival begins.  


1/8 – Germany pledges to stop buying Russian coal from today; anniversary of foundation of Chinese People’s Liberation Army; world breastfeeding week starts; EU announces monthly unemployment figures; 10th Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons review conference in New York, 2/8 – 2022 Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios appears in court on common assault charge in Canberra; criminal trial continues for WNBA player Brittney Griner in Russia; 55th ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Cambodia, 3/8 – Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Australian National University virtually; OPEC and non-OPEC ministerial meeting in Austria; 4/8 – Four-day Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) starts in Texas; American Psychological Association Convention in Minnesota; OECD quarterly growth and economic well-being data released, 5/8 – Turkish president Recep Erdoğan meets Vladimir Putin in Russia; World Cosplay Summit held in Japan; pre-trial readiness hearing for Harvey Weinstein on sexual assault charges in Los Angeles, 6/8 – 77th annual memorial event for Hiroshima atomic bomb victims; Independence Day in Jamaica; European Juggling Convention in Spain.

Thanks for reading. Please share this around and tell us what you think. Send an email to sensemaker@tortoisemedia.com.

Paul Hayward

Additional reporting by Giles Whittell, Jessica Winch and Phoebe Davis.

Photographs Getty Images, NASA

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