England’s heartbreaking defeat in the Women’s World Cup semi-finals on Tuesday was watched by the biggest TV viewing audience of the year so far.
A peak audience of 11.7million tuned in to see the match, which was screened live on BBC One, according to figures released by the corporation.
England lost 2-1 to the United States in Lyon after a tense second half in which they missed a penalty and had a goal disallowed in a marginal VAR offside decision.
The figures also revealed that the peak share of the TV audience during the match was 50.8 per cent.
Former England striker Gary Lineker, presenter of the BBC’s flagship Match of the Day programme, tweeted: “Brilliant figures.”
The audience comfortably beat the previous highest for a women’s game in the UK, that being the 7.6million that watched the quarter-final win over Norway.
Other impressive figures in the tournament include 6.1million for the group game against Scotland and 6.9million for the last-16 defeat of Cameroon.
Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What’s been so different and great about this tournament is the sheer number of people watching the Lionesses on TV.
“It’s moved from being an interesting Olympic-type sport to an absolute mainstream sport. The importance of that is that adds attraction, it pulls girls and women into playing.”
England will now play in the third-place play-off on Saturday against the losers of the second semi-final between Holland and Sweden.
A tweet from the Arsenal Women read: “11.7M viewers tuned in to #ENGUSA last night, making it the most-watched programme of 2019 so far. Thank you for inspiring a nation, @leahcwilliamson, @bmeado9 and all the @Lionesses.”