sport

Yankey keen on Olympic legacy

Rachel Yankey hopes the rising popularity of women's football continues next year when she aims to help England to European Championship glory.

Despite pre-Olympic scepticism, women's football proved to be one of the most popular aspects of London 2012, with record numbers attending matches throughout the competition.

Some 70,584 watched Team GB beat Brazil in their last group game, and a world record crowd of 80,203 turned up to watch the final between the United States and Japan, while millions of Britons tuned in to watch the games on television.

As with so many Olympic sports, women's football is desperate to capitalise on the interest in the game. The next major international tournament takes place in July in Sweden, where England play in the European Championship and Yankee, the country's most capped player, hopes the interest in the sport does not die down as she thinks it may be key to the team's chances of success.

"The support we had at the Olympics was massive," Yankey said at last night's Tessa Sanderson Foundation dinner in London.

"It was great for us because it gave the team exposure and it put pressure on us. We can only hope that when the Euros comes around in July we get the same support for England.

"Having that support was a massive buzz. People were looking at us on the back and front pages this summer. It's fantastic and we have to aspire to do that again."

Britain's women will probably not be able to showcase their footballing talents at future Olympics, with the Football Association (FA) claiming difficulties with qualifying make it "unlikely" that Team GB will be represented at Rio 2016.

Now that they do not enjoy home nation status, the team would have to go through qualification, which has once again raised fears about the sovereignty of the four countries who represent Britain at the Olympics.

Several figures from within the women's game have voiced their disappointment at the FA's stance, but Yankey appears resigned to the fact that she will never play in an Olympic Games again.

"I was disappointed but we always kind of knew that would be the case," the 33-year-old added.

"That's why the team wanted to do so well. We always figured it would probably be a one-off.

"It would be fantastic if we could have a male and a female team going to Rio but whether it's possible is another matter."

:: The Tessa Sanderson Foundation and Academy is a charity organisation that aims to help and assist young people in sport towards a healthier lifestyle through physical activity. For more information visit: www.tsfa.co.uk