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Leah Williamson Celebrates Inclusive Football Spaces With Tribute Portrait Unveiling At Wembley Stadium

The inspirational founder of an inclusive women’s football team has been honoured at Wembley Stadium with an art installation unveiled by England Lionesses captain, Leah Williamson.

The unique tribute to Manchester Laces’ Helen Hardy forms part of a National Lottery campaign supporting women in sport and celebrating female coaches making their mark, encouraging others to find out how they can do the same.

Leah williamson celebrates inclusive football spaces with tribute portrait unveiling at wembley stadium

With the help of National Lottery funding, Helen set up Manchester Laces in March 2021, the city’s first inclusive women’s and non-binary football team. It now boasts 5 teams with more than 110 players and coaches.

Now her commitment to progressing women’s football has been recognised in an innovative piece of art created by artist Charlotte Archer and painted onto the Spanish Steps at the home of English football, Wembley Stadium.

It comes following a remarkable year of sporting success for female sports stars including victory for the England Women’s football team at the European Championships, and England’s Red Roses who reached the final of the Women’s Rugby Union World Cup last weekend.

Helen hardy wembley tribute portrait 8

Leah Williamson, who today unveiled the artwork, said: “I’m so proud to be a part of a project that champions women in football, something incredibly close to my heart and central to my life.

Projects like Manchester Laces are so important in encouraging women to pursue their passion for football, and the funding from the National Lottery is integral to making these passions a reality; it enables everyone to have the opportunity to get involved and find the sport that they can love, whilst bringing them together with others.”

Helen hardy wembley tribute portrait

Helen Hardy said: “I’m delighted to be involved in this important project and honoured to be featured on the steps of such an iconic venue for football, ahead of the World Cup.

The Women’s Euros this year showed how far football has come in its support of women’s role in the sport, and the support of The National Lottery is vital in helping projects like Manchester Laces come to fruition.”

Helen hardy wembley tribute portrait 1

Viveen Taylor, Director of Equality Diversity & Inclusion at Sport England, said: “Everyone should have the chance to take part in sport and be active – regardless of background, bank balance, gender or where they live.

But our research shows us that stubborn barriers for women getting active persist, such as fear or judgement, not being good enough or safety concerns. 

That’s why celebrating women like Helen Hardy, who have broken down these barriers and created inclusive spaces for women and non-binary people to take part in sports and be active, is so important.

“We thank the National Lottery players, who raise £30 million for good causes every week, boosting opportunities for people to get active and find a sport they can love.”

Alongside this installation, three additional digital portraits in The National Lottery’s Peoples’ Portraits series have been created by digital artist, Yoniest Chun, which capture the stories of other individuals and projects who have achieved incredible things for women in sports in their communities.

These include Tirion Thomas, a rugby coach at Bala RFC in Wales, Fiona McIntyre, managing director of the Scottish Women’s Premier League and Elaine Junk, chair of Mid-Ulster Ladies FC in Northern Ireland.

For more information on National Lottery funding visit https://www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/funding

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