So what next for the girl’s grassroots game?

The banning of women’s football in the 20’s was HIStory, the future, however is HERstory.


It’s fair to say that the female game has exploded over the last 5-10 years, in so many ways from playing and coaching, through refereeing, and the administrative side of running clubs and leagues.


We’ve seen record numbers enter the game, and record levels of funding to support this growth. As we discussed last month the success of the Lionesses has had a significant springboard like impact and their continued success on and off the field continues to inspire, women of all ages and young girls see football as a home for them.


But, what next for the women’s game, sometimes it’s important to pause, reflect and take stock. If we look at the progress that has been made right across the game its safe to say we are moving in the right direction, I don’t think anyone would disagree with that statement. However, I would argue its not time to sit on our laurels and pat ourselves on the back because in reality we are merely making up for lost time and if anything should squeeze the accelerator, not the brake.


What do I mean by that you may ask? Well let me explain, to do that I need to go back a little in history to explain. In 1921 there were about 150 women’s football clubs. Matches were popular spectator events and some drew up to 45,000 fans. The future of the women’s game looked bright. However on 5th December 1921 The FA met at its headquarters in London and announced a ban on the women’s game from being played at the professional grounds and pitches of clubs affiliated to The FA


This ban lasted for 50 years, that wasn’t a typo I meant to say 50 years, that means the ban wasn’t lifted until the 70’s. The easy way of putting this into real life perspective is this, my mother was banned from doing the thing my daughter loves the most! Imagine what the game would look like if we had 50 years worth of growth, and that brings me back to my are statement above “merely making up for lost time and if anything should squeeze the accelerator, not the brake.”


So how do we do that, that is the question?


We continue to highlight and showcase new heroes at the top of the game from the England team and women’s pro game, we continue with the same level of investment from all stakeholders and even look to increase where possible as we look to find ways to encourage more females into the game.


The evidence is quite clear, where football is an option for girls, its being taken in their droves. So we also target schools, one of our regular pieces of feedback is a lack of playing opportunities for girls in schools, with a significant number of schools having no football provision at all for girls. It’s important at this point to be fair and balanced and applaud the schools that have taken the bull by the horns in girls football and are now advocates of girls football in schools. But we need to bring all schools in line with each other and offer football for those who want to participate.


On average girls start playing football slightly later than boys, this gap needs to be addressed by utilising our schools as above, but also expanding on the continuation of success stories like Wildcats and stepping over the sidelines. Both programmes aimed specifically at increasing participation in the game.


A key focus on the transition from school girl football and/or grassroots girl football to non league football would increase opportunity for open age female football therefore increasing participation. This is not exhaustive and I could list so many more but I would run out of page.


In closing though we need to make up for lost time and continue to strive for an equal game for female football on an equal footing to the male game. The banning of women’s football in the 20’s was HIStory, the future, however is HERstory.


Paul Kirton

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