Women’s football is better than ever, it is now time to capitalise on it.

England v Brazil, Riverside Stadium

Key Points

  • More women than ever are playing football
  • More opportunities for girls to play football
  • Women’s football is becoming more popular

With England hosting the European Championships in 2021, the final being at Wembley Stadium, the time is now to capitalise on a surge of female participation in football.

The Lionesses have reached three consecutive major tournament semi-finals: losing 2-1 to Japan in the 2015 World Cup, a 3-0 defeat to hosts and eventual winners the Netherlands in Euro 2017 and a 2-1 loss to the defending champions USA earlier this year. 

The impact of the recent success of the national team can already been seen around the country. Latest figures from the FA show that 2.63 million women aged 16 and over are now playing football, an increase of 850,000 committed participants. 

The Football Association have recently established 1,200 new Wildcats Football Centres, offering up to 30,000 more girls the chance to play football in the community.

Wildcats Football Centres offer sessions on a weekly basis, either after school or at weekends, for girls aged 5-11 to make friends, have fun and become active through football.  There are currently 1,250 such centres, an increase of 42% on the 880 available in January 2019.

The FA and Barclays have created a new Girls’ Football School Partnership that has reached over 6,500 schools across England so far.  During a pilot involving 100 schools, the scheme reached nearly 17,000 girls, of which 56% aged 11-14 had never played football before. 

Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s head of women’s football, told Telegraph Sport: “We’re not anticipating that every girl will love it and every girl will want to continue playing it, but every girl should have the opportunity to play the game and to enjoy the game.”

An Active Lives Children’s survey of over 130,000 young people revealed that the biggest factor in getting children active is the enjoyment and having fun when playing.

The Telegraph reports that just 8% of girls aged between 11 and 18 are meeting the recommended one hour of exercise per day, exactly half the figure of boys in the same age category.

Powerleague, a five-a-side football league, say that the number of female participants has doubled from 4% to 8% in the 10 months between September 2018 and July 2019.

A UEFA report from 2017 stated that England become just the sixth nation in Europe to have over 100,000 registered female footballers. The report showed that 102,557 females were registered, an increase of 13,686 (15.4%) compared to the same report from 2015.

201520162017
Germany258,380197,577203,756
Netherlands137,525145,558155,035
France73,48485,500118,842
Sweden167,949169,937117,729
Norway106,69696,238103,636
England89,11899,492102,824

There has been a steady increase of registered female players over the years but England still lag behind lesser populated countries like Sweden and the Netherlands.

It isn’t just on the pitch where interest is growing in the women’s game, it’s also off the pitch too. England’s friendly against Germany at Wembley in November set a new home attendance record for the Lionesses of 77,768, a 170% increase on the previous record of 45,618, also against the Germans in 2014. 

Attendances in the Women’s Super League have flourished in the wake of the 2019 World Cup, aided by the hosting of games in the men’s home stadia. The first ever WSL Manchester derby, hosted at the Etihad Stadium, smashed the then Super League record of 5,265 when 31,213 attended Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Manchester United in September. 

The record was then broken again as 38,262 watched reigning champions Arsenal win 2-0 at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in the maiden WSL North London derby, during women’s football weekend.

Women’s football weekend was described as an “absolutely momentous” day for the Women’s Super League as two attendance records were broken, including the North London derby, and four of six matches were played at men’s Premier League and Championship grounds.

2018/19 Average2019/20 AverageIncrease (%)
Manchester City1,5059,371523
Chelsea2,0409,250353
Liverpool5308,6231,527
West Ham8806,267612
Arsenal2,0102,0160.30
Brighton9751,71076
Bristol City5281,256138
Brimingham866848-2.08
Reading844757-10.3
Everton217386-78.9
Average1,0394,348318

The table above shows that, on the whole, attendances are on the rise compared to the previous season. Information can be found on worldfootball.net. 

Even without factoring into account the games held at men’s home stadia, attendances are still 47% higher on average compared to last season, according to BBC Sport. 

Whilst there are a lot of positives to take moving forward, it is important to capitalise on the momentum currently with women’s football in this country. The upcoming European Championships present a perfect opportunity to encourage and motivate more girls to become involved in football.

The time is now to capitalise on a surge of female participation in football.

More information:

FA Wildcats centres: http://www.thefa.com/womens-girls-football/get-involved/wildcats

https://womenscompetitions.thefa.com/en/Article/sse-wildcats-guide-for-parents-101018

FA Girls’ football schools partnerships:

https://www.youthsporttrust.org/FA-partnerships

Powerleague, five-a-side league: https://www.powerleague.co.uk/football/womens

UEFA report from 2017 on women’s football:

https://www.uefa.com/MultimediaFiles/Download/OfficialDocument/uefaorg/Women’sfootball/02/51/60/57/2516057_DOWNLOAD.pdf

Interview with Graham Todd and Danny Todd of Redcar Town FC:

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