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Women’s And Girls’ Football Sees Growth After Memorable Year

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The Football Association has today provided an update on the strategic ambitions set out in the Women’s and Girls’ strategy, Inspiring Positive Change, two years since its launch in October 2020.

The strategy pledged to create a sustainable future for women’s and girls’ football in England through eight transformational objectives to be achieved by 2024.

Since the launch, strides have been made in the priority areas, with growth accelerated after a historic year for the women’s and girls’ game.

One of the transformational objectives was to win a major tournament which was delivered on 31 July when England lifted the UEFA EURO 2022 trophy at Wembley Stadium in front of 87,000 fans.

Since then, awareness of the Lionesses has increased by 32% across girls aged 5-16 in England*, and interest in women’s football is up 12% amongst girls aged 5-16 in England compared to before the tournament*.

Following the historic win, watched by a peak television audience of 17.4m on BBC One, there have been record-breaking league attendances in the Barclays Women’s Super League and record average attendances in the Barclays Women’s Championship.

The momentous achievement of the England team has shown an impact across the whole women’s and girls’ game.

Since October 2021 there has been a 17% increase in female affiliated players across all levels of the game, a 30% increase in female registered football teams, and a 15% increase in female youth teams – made up of girls aged between 5-18 years old.

Since the summer’s EURO, there has also been a 196% increase in women’s and girls’ football session bookings through the England Football ‘FindFootball’ tool.

Growth has also been shown across refereeing and coaching. Since October 2021, there has been a 21% increase in female registered referees across all levels, and a 390% increase in female referees aged between 14-15 beginning refereeing training. The number of female coaches working in affiliated teams is up 75% compared to the same point last year.

The strategy set clear Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) objectives and since its launch, 94% of County FAs now have EDI plans specifically for the female game, nearing the target of 100% by 2024. 64% of County FAs are currently offering FA-developed ‘football for fun’ recreational opportunities for adult women from all communities, with the aim of hitting 100% by 2024.

Baroness Sue Campbell, The Director of Women’s Football at The FA said: “When we launched our Women’s and Girls’ strategy, Inspiring Positive Change, in October 2020 eight months into a global pandemic, we could not have foreseen the incredible two years that lay ahead.

While things in the world have changed, we have remained constant in our belief that football has the power to change lives for the better and improve opportunities for girls and women across society.

“The power of women’s football was evident on 31 July 2022, a day that will live long in the memory for us all. One goal in the strategy was to ‘win a major tournament’ but none of us could have imagined the impact of victory in a home tournament.

When the Lionesses lifted the UEFA Women’s EURO trophy at Wembley Stadium in front of 87,000 fans, it was a moment of great joy, but it was also a moment of great opportunity.

The reaction to the success and the way it transcended society has given us an unprecedented chance to change the future of the women’s game forever.  

It has turbocharged our strategy with demand growing right across the game. We have seen more girls stepping forward to play, more fans filling our stadiums and new commercial partners all wanting to be part of this great movement for change. 

“Another big goal was our pledge to transform the game at the grassroots level by ensuring that girls have equal access to football in schools and clubs.

It’s a passion shared by our special group of England players, who are doing everything in their power to make a change in this area.

Our strategy sought to achieve this goal by 2024 but we know that we must capitalise on the Euros and work in partnership with the government and other key stakeholders to drive this ambition as quickly as possible.

“Our strategy was based on understanding an individual’s motivation to be involved in football. Whether that be playing for fun or competition, coaching, refereeing, volunteering or becoming a fan, we want to ensure there is access and opportunity for every girl and woman.

Building on our highly successful Weetabix Wildcats offering for primary-age girls, we launched our SQUAD programme for 12–14-year-olds and saw 90,000 girls take part in the Let Girls Play Biggest Ever Football session.  

Alongside the development of our club pathway, we launched the Women’s National League three-year strategy, produced a comprehensive plan for the development of the Barclays WSL and Barclays WC and saw a significant uplift in prize money for the Vitality Women’s FA Cup competition.

We have redesigned our talent pathway to ensure it is more diverse and inclusive and produced a blueprint for success for our England teams from under 14 to senior level.

All this progress has been underpinned by the rapid development of coaches and referees at all levels of the game and the support of an increasing number of commercial partners.

“We still have a long way to go but we are making good progress on all fronts. Thank you to all our partners who have played a pivotal role in helping us make strides towards our strategic goals, including our County FAs, schools, clubs, and of course the talented and committed team at The FA.”

The strategy update comes as England prepares for the international fixtures in Pinatar, Spain against Japan and Norway.

To download the strategy update document, click here.