(Reuters) - The future of English women's soccer faces an unprecedented threat as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and decisive action must be taken to protect its future, researchers have said.
Professional soccer in England has been suspended since mid-March due to the novel coronavirus outbreak and this season's Women's Super League and second-tier Women's Championship were ended on Monday.
Women's soccer was battling with issues ranging from poor pitches to low wages before the pandemic and could be set back further, according a study by the University of Portsmouth.
"History has shown that at times of financial insecurity, clubs and the FA have cut investment to the women’s game," Beth Clarkson, lead author of the study said.
"Given the historical devaluation of women’s football, there is a danger that recent advances in women’s football may be lost and progress set back decades."
The study said the future of women's soccer could be protected by "being entrepreneurial in approaches generating revenue for the women’s game" and "recognising issues surrounding player wellbeing that might be felt acutely in women’s football and acting accordingly."
Olympique Lyonnais striker Ada Hegerberg has also warned that women's soccer could take a hit.
"We're kind of at the stage where we're still in need of that help and when you see football as a whole and the men's football is struggling you can also imagine yourself how the women's football is affected by this," she told ESPN.
(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)