Growth over recent years has been phenomenal.
UEFA, the governing body of European football, estimates that the commercial value of the European game could reach £600m in the next decade. There are currently more young girls playing football than ever before. The Lionesses are inspiring the next generation through victory at the Euros and victory in Downing Street, lobbying for girls to have better access to football at school. The challenge now is to turn the momentum of all that noisy opportunity into a coherent symphony.
A big step has been taken with the recent publication of “Raising the Bar”, a report commissioned by the Department for Culture Media & Sport and chaired by the former England player Karen Carney.
This comes after extensive consultation and makes 10 recommendations which are a clear and coherent diagnosis of key changes required. These include:
The lack of diversity in the England women’s senior team suggests a potential issue with the available pathways into women’s and girls’ football.
Many of the current Women’s Super League clubs have moved to suburban and semi-rural training and playing facilities, away from major cities to places such as Surrey, Hertfordshire and Cheshire. We need to widen the talent pool.
The expansion of the Emerging Talent Centres by The FA and its Discover My Talent initiative will doubtless help but there is also a lack of female coaches as role models to attract talent. We welcome that the report calls for better data to gain a clearer understanding of current workforce demographics, alongside recommendations to embed diversity and representation in the game.
At Kick It Out, we will be working closely with our football partners to play a role in this exciting journey to make women’s football a game where everyone feels that they belong. We aim to support more women into coaching roles; better understand the barriers for women and girls from a range of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds so that interventions can be appropriately tailored; and support the development of improved player pathways working closely with The FA.
Our one note of caution is around money.
Ultimately, delivering change will require the allocation of resources. Whilst the proposed governance changes will help, the principal resources to effect direct change sit with clubs. Without earmarked investment and sufficient numbers of people dedicated solely to the women’s game, how will the women’s game grow at the pace of which it seems capable?
American inventor Thomas Edison once said that “most people miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”. There has been some great work in women’s football already. Now is the time to build on those foundations.
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