Sky Sports exclusive: Arsenal and England defender Lotte Wubben-Moy reflects on a historic summer for the women’s game and seizing the moment to cement the legacy of the Lionesses.
The last few months have been a wild ride for Lotte Wubben-Moy.
The Arsenal and England defender signed a new contract with the club she has always supported at the end of April, was part of the team that missed out on the Women’s Super League title by a point in May and, by the end of July, had a European champions’ medal round her neck.
It was only last Friday that normality resumed after a summer of celebration, following a week-long delay to the start of the 2022/23 WSL campaign after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
“You don’t really take into account how much being in a rhythm and a routine is needed,” says the 23-year-old.
“Ironically, I was extremely drained after the Euros. It takes a lot out of you in the moment and it’s only when you are able to rest and have time to reflect that you realise how big an ask it was for your body.
“But I’d do that again and again and again if it meant getting to the levels we did in that tournament.”
There were uncertain moments along the way, but Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses eventually lifted their maiden European Championship trophy after Chloe Kelly hit an extra-time winner against Germany on July 31.
There were more than 87,000 in attendance at Wembley and people up and down the country were glued to television screens in anticipation – with many likely prepared for failure based on the men’s often painful history in major tournaments.
But, whatever the result, this was a momentum-shifting summer for the women’s game.
It had been building gradually since the WSL turned fully professional in 2018/19, and had intensified after a milestone deal was struck with Sky Sports last year to televise matches, which pumped millions into the division.
Wubben-Moy is eager to capitalise on the extra focus on the game, but not for personal gain – she sees this as the opportune moment to inspire.
After all, she was the inspiration behind the Lionesses’ letter to the Government this summer, which urged the next Prime Minister to give every girl in the nation the chance to follow in their footsteps by allowing them access to football in PE.
“While I am the driving force, I think it was something that every single player on that team agreed with,” she said.
“The fact that there had been obstacles in our way to play football at a young age meant we all had these shared experiences. Some were better than others – coming from London, I played street football with the boys and it was the most easy, natural thing.
“Other people don’t have that opportunity and, as a result, when they do go to school, they don’t have the opportunity to play.
“It was more a case of knowing that the barriers are there and how can we help to make it as easy as possible to play sport. The easiest place is at school where it can be facilitated with balls and cones that might be harder to get on your own. Playing in an environment that is safe, enjoyable and where you can relate football to school can make it a positive relationship.
“Not every kid loves football, not every kid loves school, but if we can find a common ground there often is a positive outcome.”
Even if the opportunity to play is provided, however, other, more personal, barriers can often prevent young girls from playing football.
That is why Wubben-Moy has become an ambassador for Gillette’s Venus and fronted their #MoveYourSkin campaign, which hopes to tackle the issue of skin-consciousness, a major barrier into sport for women, to encourage the next generation of young girls and women to feel comfortable in their own skin.
They found that more than a third of UK women do not participate in sport because they worry about how their skin looks.
“From the off, that statistic was what struck me most: the thought that young girls, in particular, don’t feel confident in their bodies to actually do sport. That as a barrier to entry is something we definitely can have an impact on,” said Wubben-Moy.
“I’m responsible for that. The way me or athletes in general are portrayed in the media often is done so with these ‘rules’ that seem to not really be known and it’s a case of thinking ‘I’ll only post a photo if my muscles are rippling or my facials look good’. That’s not reality.
“With Venus, we are looking to re-write those rules and say ‘This is not real. This isn’t what young people can relate to, so why are we projecting this false image of what an athlete actually is?’.
“If we are doing that, we are basically marginalising a massive group of young people, young girls when in reality sport is open to everyone, regardless of how you look.
“Our hope is to flip it on its head with the curriculums that teach skin confidence and give them the tools to actually feel good in their skin and understand that we don’t all look perfect and to embrace it and use it as something we can champion and use on the pitch and off it as well. I feel really passionate about it.”
“It has been pretty great, particularly with Football Beyond Borders, who are a charity that work in schools and are very passionate about this,” she adds.
“I’ve had a great response from my team-mates and friends that aren’t athletes, too. People understand it. As women, we all know there are issues with this subject and the more that we speak about it, the more normal we make it.
“We want to tear down all the barriers because sport should be there for everyone and we should feel confident in ourselves to do that.
“I feel really privileged to be able to be a role model and it gives me a lot of energy. I wake up every morning hoping I can do that every day and I’m lucky that I am able to.”
With the way she talks so passionately and eloquently about various topics, it is hard to believe Wubben-Moy is just 23-years-old. She scoffs at the suggestion she is an old head on young shoulders – “But I suppose I do think a bit differently.”
That goes without saying.
She is a member of Common Goal – an organisation to which footballers and coaches pledge at least one per cent of their salary that goes towards funding football charities around the globe – has been named a Climate Champion by Football For Future and she does a lot of work with Arsenal in the Community, too.
“Honestly, I think it comes with the job,” she says. “I feel responsible.
“I’ve got young siblings, sisters, friends, people all around the world I look at in different sectors, communities – and I feel like I have an opportunity with my platform to share and do things that maybe others can’t and I feel privileged with that.
“To not use that for good feels like I’d be doing all my family, or the whole world, in fact, a disservice.
“My boyfriend and I have arguments about it because it’s something of a naive statement that you could actually change the world or change someone’s mind, but my argument always is that if you can change one person’s mind, who’s to say they can’t change someone else’s and there be a ripple effect?
“If every single person could do that about something they feel passionate about, I do think the world would be a better place.”
The conversation soon turns back towards the legacy of the Lionesses, following their glory back in the summer.
Wubben-Moy is adamant the landscape now means that it will be a different story 17 years later.
“The word legacy was thrown around a lot in camp during the Euros but I think it takes on various different forms. From us as a team, that legacy was put in writing with the letter that we wrote to the PM and that set out completely clearly for the future generations coming through that they are the ones that should be benefitting from the legacy.
“They need to have equal access to football at schools; that needs to be bread and butter and we’re standing for nothing less than that.
“If you look at it from a broader perspective, the amount of brands that are coming on board – and not just for the honeymoon phase, for the long term. Venus are in it for the long term; they are pushing not just internally but externally in school for young people in schools, bringing in curriculums that allow for confidence in your body, in your skin.
“The amount of brands investing in the future of the game is remarkable and I think, comparing it to 2005, there weren’t as many stakeholders in the game back then. Now you see a lot of investment from a positive perspective, with time, money and energy.
“That’s what will allow for this legacy to be concreted for the future.”