Women’s football has had a loyal and devoted fanbase for more than a decade, but more people than ever are turning their attention to the sport, thanks in part to the astounding success of the England women’s team at last year’s UEFA Euro championship. As a result, women’s football has grown in popularity, and podcasts like The Guardian’s Women’s Football Weeklyhave been there to keep fans - both new and old - up to speed on the game.
Hosted by football writer Suzy Wrack and broadcaster Faye Carruthers, Women’s Football Weekly covers all the goings-on in the Women’s Super League, with a range of guests from across the sport. We sat down with Wrack to find out what inspired them to launch the podcast, how they managed recording during the Euros, and how doing the podcast has taught her not to overthink things.
How would you describe your podcast?
So the podcast is Women's Football Weekly, which isn't the most inventive of names in the world. But given that we had Football Weekly under the Guardian title, adding Women's Football Weekly to the portfolio felt like it made sense. Basically, it's a guide – week by week – to women's football. The men's Football Weekly podcast has been doing that for a very long time and is incredibly successful.
Why did you start your podcast?
The women's edition is a chance to delve a bit deeper into some of the biggest women's football stories of the week. We used to have myself or someone else relatively regularly jumping onto the men's podcast for a little bit on what was going on in the women's game if there was a particularly big week. But women's football is growing so significantly, the Euros are so hugely successful, that it felt quite important for us to give it its own space, delve a bit deeper into it and give it the airtime that it deserves.
What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started?
I was really lucky that I had a chance to prepare myself for something like this. I would go on the men's Football Weekly to do a little rundown on what had been happening in the women's game that week. I do wish we'd been able to do some in-studio records, all of our records being remote. I think they're pretty invaluable for building rapport. But we were all out covering the Euros. The Weekly team [are] not out in the field covering the game day to day in the way that a lot of us are, because the group that covers women football is a much smaller bunch than the group of people covering men's football.
We launched for the Euros in the summer, which was obviously a huge tournament for England, and a really great time to launch something around because of the success of it. But we were at games, so we were having to record after games in hotel rooms – we were getting into hotels at 1am, then jumping on to record a podcast straight away. Doing it in-studio was impossible. So I wish we had made a bit of time to practise bantering around a little bit because I think that's valuable for rapport, even if it was just meeting up in a pub for a drink. The good thing is, we do all know each other from covering women's football; we see each other quite regularly, but it's not quite the same as sitting around a table.
How many people does it take to create an episode of your show?
Myself and Faye Carruthers, who host the podcast, and then we've got a really good set of producers and a great executive producer. Jessy Parker Humphreys is basically our in-house women's football expert, script, producer and just brilliant person. Then we've got Sal Ahmad, who's our executive producer, and Lucy Oliver, who comes in and records everything, edits it with Sal and makes sure that it's journalistically sound and we've not made any disastrous errors.
And then we have a whole pool of talent that we get on as guests every week alongside me and Faye. So it's usually four of us on the podcast every week. We get on some great people: we have Anita Asante, the former England player who's also a columnist for us; Anne-Marie Batson, who's a fantastic broadcaster and journalist; Sophie Downey, who's one half of Girls on the Ball, who have been covering women's football for more than 10 years. So there's a real wealth of women's football expertise that is dipped into and it changes every week so it stays fresh.
Do you monetise your podcast?
We've got a commercial team that handles the monetisation of the show. It takes care of that side of the business for us, which is great.
How do you promote your podcast?
It's most mostly through sharing online snippets of the content on social media. Football Weekly is able to give us shout-outs and promote what we're doing and what we're covering. Just because we've got the separate Women's Weekly podcast doesn't mean that women's football disappears from Football Weekly, because obviously, it's a different audience. And it's important that we still give rundowns when necessary of what's going on in the women's game in the men's podcast. And that's why the men's podcast stayed running through the Euros as well, which was really, really great for cross-sharing the audience.
And then we've got a really great marketing team that takes care of running paid ads across the Guardian and other media outlets. It gets signposted in most of the women's football articles that I or any of the others write, and any other media work that we do. And we've got a really fantastic weekly newsletter called Moving the Goalposts that often will point to it too, which is another great tool for promoting it.
What have you learned about yourself since starting the podcast?
I'm a lot better speaking off the cuff than I used to be. That obviously comes with having to do it a lot. So I've always been decent at being able to prepare and deliver a speech to a lot of people or do a presentation; that's never been a problem. But I've always struggled with the live or less scripted stuff: going on TV, going on radio. When people tell me I'm doing a good job, I feel like I'm not. I did a Women's Hour interview recently. They ring you up in advance and pre-interview you to check that you're going to be good enough on the topic, and I was great in the pre-chat. And then when it came to the actual show, I was nowhere near as good. I just couldn't deliver it in the same way again. Everyone said it was great and it was fine, but I know that the pre-live version was a lot better.
So I guess I've learned to trust my instincts a little bit more, because when the pressure is lifted it's far more easy to flow naturally. I overthink things; I struggle to speak off the cuff without having thought much about it beforehand, so trusting that what I'm actually going to say is okay and I actually do know my subject pretty damn well.
Who listens to your podcast?
It's quite a young audience. So far, it's mostly been female and under 35. You've got young football players, people who are longtime fans of women's football, some who have been led to us after falling in love with England and the Lionesses after that win at the Euros. At the moment most are tuning in from the UK, but we've got a good number of listeners in the US and Australia as well. Obviously we've got the Guardian US and Guardian Australia desks and have audiences there for women's football already. Women's football is really big in the States and it's growing in Australia; the Women's World Cup is there next summer.
What was the last podcast you listened to?
I listen to quite a few because I do so much driving up and down the country to get to matches – many of the women's grounds are in the middle of nowhere, so public transport is ruled out. Podcasts are my go-to, stay-awake listening in car journeys. Within the last couple of days I've listened to most of the men's Football Weekly around the Men's World Cup.
I hate listening to football podcasts generally because I don't like being too absorbed by work. You watch so much football that it gets a bit tiring sometimes; you lose love for it a little bit if you delve in too deep. So I do a lot of 'easy listening' stuff. My Therapist Ghosted Me is a favourite, as is Katherine Ryan's Telling Everybody Everything. I'm a big fan of the comedy advice genre, if that's what you could describe it as – make me laugh, keep me awake and entertained.