Baroness Campbell of Loughborough: We want to get more women and girls involved in football
Director of Women’s Football at The Football Association, Baroness Sue Campbell CBE, writes about the FA's desire to shift the balance and make football more inclusive.
In March 2016, The Football Association launched its ambitious four year strategy, The Gameplan for Growth, which set out a significant vision for women and girls in football – to double female participation and the female fan base, achieve consistent success on the international stage and ensure that every young girl can experience and learn through our national sport.
It’s one thing to write a plan – it's another to turn it into well-executed action on the ground. So 18 months on, I am pleased to report we remain on track to deliver the ambitious goals we set – but it is still early days. Progress has been driven by a clear collective effort across the football family – The FA, the County Football Associations, clubs, leagues – and the education sector.
We have mapped out football provision for women and girls across the country, building a picture of what is available for girls to participate in football and enjoy the game. As a result, we have developed an understanding of where we have the greatest potential to make a difference through The Gameplan for Growth strategy. We are putting in place the infrastructure through which outstanding bespoke programmes can be delivered which engage, excite and encourage women and girls to make football a part of their lives.
We are striving to ensure that all girls and women are welcomed and valued as players, coaches, referees and administrators. For The FA Girls’ Football School Partnerships, we have teamed up with the Youth Sport Trust providing bespoke programmes for over 5,000 schools to drive a culture change in girls’ football through education. The FA’s SSE Wildcats Centres for girls aged 5-11, of which there are 878 across the country, have opened up opportunities for many more girls to enjoy football for the first time. We’re also delighted that for women over the age of 35, recreational football is growing with over 50 teams involved in the 2017/18 FA People’s Cup. In Westminster, The FA has supported the launch of the first ever UK Women’s Parliamentary Football Club, pioneered by iNHouse Communications and the Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch MP.
One of The Gameplan for Growth’s aims is to change perceptions and remove social barriers to participation and following. This can only be achieved by football continuing to work together and using diverse influencers and advocates. The FA has a partnership with Disney to inspire girls across the country to play the game and get active. We’re also making sure that the women’s and girls’ game is affordable and accessible. For example, at last year’s SSE Women’s FA Cup Final, tickets for children were free and adults could attend for £15. Meanwhile, a fully professional FA Women’s Super League shows the strides that have been made in the women’s game and will act as a catalyst for women and girls to follow their dreams.
Football is a positive lifestyle choice, providing a route to physical, social and emotional wellbeing, as well as creating lifelong friendships and interests whether as a player or as part of the next generation of football volunteers, coaches, and referees. Women continue to be underrepresented in every aspect of sport; we want to shift that balance and make football more inclusive.
We have the desire and aspiration to drive women’s and girls’ football to new heights. We’re on the right track but to achieve our aims, it will take creativity, courage and a constant willingness to challenge the status quo.
LABOUR CONFERENCE FRINGE EVENT
Gameplan for Growth: How do we get more women and girls involved in football?
London Lounge Marquee * Monday 24th September* 8.30am - 9.15am
Baroness Sue Campbell CBE, Director of Women’s Football, The Football Association
Rosena Allin-Khan MP, Shadow Minister for Sport
Alison McGovern MP, Vice Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group for Football
Sue Smith, Former England International Footballer