Days after England won the Euros, grassroots women’s football clubs said they had been overwhelmed by increased demands.
However, access to football varies across the country, with some regions lacking women’s teams for all ages. Only 44% of secondary schools offer girls and boys equal access to football. In addition, travel and costs are a barrier to some girls’ access to the field.
Here, parents and those involved in youth football discuss opportunities in their area.
“There are good local teams, but schools need to improve”
Fi Star-Stone, a 47-year-old coach for a Girls Under-13 team in Stafford, says her area offers a range of opportunities for girls to play. “We’re a small town but we have multiple teams,” she says, calling the local access “great.” She says the FA have provided a lot of support, including funding the coaching course she took with her club, Stafford Town FC.
However, there is room for improvement in the schools, the coach says. “Most offer netball for girls and football for boys, which is why so many girls are looking to their local clubs to find a place to play,” Star-Stone says, adding that she “would love to see the football added to girls’ physical education curriculum”. ”. This is especially important given that after-school sports are not accessible to all girls, especially in “the current climate where anything extra is a burden. Not everyone can afford to go there or play outside of school… If it was in the program, they would all have the opportunity to play football.
“Local access is good – for girls whose parents have money”
Adele Richards, the 57-year-old treasurer of a women’s under-11 football team at Oldham, knows how limited local access can be for disadvantaged girls. “Access is pretty good for girls whose parents have money,” she says, explaining that her daughter and a local coach set up a girls’ team at a nearby primary school in 2013 to address this imbalance. . The school funded the team to play in the North Manchester Girls League and allowed them to train on school grounds.
However, the school withdrew the funding a few years ago, leaving the team to fundraise in order to practice in another location. “We got the parents together and explained to them what had happened,” says Richards. “Parents who could afford to pay do so; children who can’t, don’t, and are supported by parents who can. We cannot refuse a child. We keep our costs to an absolute minimum. We are struggling, but we are succeeding thanks to these parents who help the poorest girls and thanks to fundraising.
“My region is a bit like the hub of women’s football”
Dominic Weaver, a 50-year-old communications professional, describes St Ives, Cambridgeshire, as “a bit of a hub” for women’s football. The city has two clubs for each gender and Weaver coaches the women’s under-18 team in which his 17-year-old daughter plays. Her club, St Ives Rangers FC, have women’s teams for every age group, from under 18 onwards. -10s. “It’s a bit of a hotbed for women’s football,” he said. “There are some very good managers, and there are a few players who have come through the club and played for England at the Under-17s and Under-19s.”
Weaver says the enthusiasm of a physical education teacher at the local comprehensive school had a huge impact. “She’s looked after the girls so much – she stands by, cheers them on and offers personal support throughout their matches.”
He is eager to see how the women’s game will continue to develop, adding that he has heard from other coaches that there has been an increase in interest since the Euros. The impact of England’s victory didn’t stop on the girls: “The other day I was playing a match with some coaches. When one of the guys backheeled someone yelled, he did a [Alessia] Russo!”
“Culture must change as well as access”
Anna’s six-year-old daughter has been playing football at an after-school club in North London for almost a year but nearly gave up a few months ago as she was the only girl in her mixed team.
The 38-year-old speaker says her daughter came home one day upset because a boy from her team aged five and six made a comment about “girls aren’t as good at football”. “It wasn’t malicious,” Anna said. “But it shows the culture he absorbed.”
Anna and her husband convinced their daughter to continue and had a word with the club organizers, which she described as “fantastic”. “She came home a few weeks later and said she was the better player – she’s more confident now and she likes it. There are at least two more girls in the squad now,” says- her, adding that her daughter “loved watching the Lionesses.”
She believes the team’s win will have a real impact on football culture: “Would that boy say the girls aren’t as good now that he’s seen the win?