Updated: Oct 31
HOW TO ENGAGE GIRLS IN THE GAME
The US Soccer Foundation have created a new Free Guide " COUNT HER IN" A Playbook for Youth Sports Programs to Engage Girls, which outlines six strategies and provides practical guidance and tools for their successful implementation based on the real-life learnings
The 2022 UEFA Women's Euros brought into focus the enormous increase of interest and in participation for Girls and Women's Football and the colossal opportunities for continued growth
Throughout the world and is especially in Europe the Euros will be a watershed for women's sport as a whole, football in general and specifically girls and womens' football.
For whom is this blog intended ?
The rise of girls and women's football is increasing exponentially and if you are involved in Grassroots Football Programme for a League, Club, School, College , a National or Regional Association, a Charity or a a Commercial Entrepreneur then we would suggest to recognise that the biggest potential growth in numbers in the next 20 months will be in this sector
In this blog we examine some of these issues
WHY ? - What is the evidence in the increase in interest for an participation in football
WHAT? - Where are the biggest opportunities ? Which programmes will have the biggest potential for growth
HOW? - 7 Ways you can tap into this growing phenomenon including our popular online course : INNOVATE ! Build Your Grassroots Football Startup
+ a postscript to the female pioneers for Girls and Women's Football Development at the English FA in the 1990's
1. WHY ? - What is the evidence in the increase in interest for an participation in football
In High Schools in the USA, Soccer has gone from a sport with just 700 total female participants in 1971-72 — representing just 0.24 percent of all American girls who played high school sports — to 394,105 in 2018-19, which ranked fourth among all sports and accounted for 12 percent of all female high school athletes.
See Graphs below
The data above maybe underreporting the increase in High School Girls Soccer as reported in 'Analyzing the Growth of Soccer in America' Download the PDF here
Also see : "Once an ‘Easy Way Out’ for Equality, Women’s Soccer Is Now U.S. Force" here
Raising the number of girls and women playing football is one of UEFA's strategy’s key cornerstones. The headline strategic goal is to double the amount of female footballers by 2024.
The registered number of female players in 2018 was less than 1.25million and by 2022 this had risen to 1.6million - a 23% increase over a difficult two year period See here
The amount of funding available for national associations through UEFA’s Women’s Football Development Programme will jump from €22 million over four years to €33 million – a rise of 50%.
In England and ......The 2022 UEFA Women's Euros
The FA claimed in 2020 that there was already over 3 million girls and women playing football in some form.
In 2020 there had been a 54% increase in affiliated women’s and girls’ teams, to 9,251, since the FA launched its Gameplan for Growth in 2017. A 715% increase in Wildcats centres for girls aged five to 11, to 1,621, has been another contributing factor. School partnerships, 2,000 Disney-inspired Shooting Stars programmes, 147 Just Play centres for adults and 88 community club organisations have also played a part.
Then there is the 2022 UEFA Women's Euros !
Regarding the audience for the Euros : “There’s been quite a shift and it’s changing,” adds Jenny Mitton, business director and women’s sport lead at M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment, when asked about the audience demographic. “From launch it was your core women’s football fans, and then since general sale we’ve seen a few other groups pop up that we probably didn’t expect to be so strong.
“A classic one is what we’re calling ‘the dads and kids’. There have been lots of individual males purchasing tickets with a number of juniors. We’re seeing football fans buying tickets up in their droves. And then also Gen Z are starting to creep in more. The last lot of sales we looked at 39 per cent were Gen Z ticket purchases, so we’re seeing they are getting engaged.
At the grassroots level, the FA believes this tournament will create 500,000 inclusive opportunities for women and girls to participate and engage with soccer as part of its legacy programme. At the top of the game, it will be hoping that an exciting tournament will help turbo charge attendances in the Women’s Super League (WSL), which the governing body wants to be averaging 6,000 spectators per game by 2024.
New figures from the Women’s Sport Trust show consumption of the Women’s Super League has skyrocketed by 285%. The first year of the new Sky-BBC rights deal saw viewership rise from 8.83 million to 34.05 million in 2021/22.
A recent report from the Women’s Sport Trust (WST) showed that 17.9 million people watched women’s sport coverage in the first quarter of 2022 – up 67 per cent from the same period in 2021.
Between January 1st and May 15th of this year, the growth of watching women’s sport rose by 140% alone. This makes it the most-watched Q1 for women’s sport on record in the UK. 21.1 million viewers tuned in, watching on average 149 minutes of women’s sport. That’s nearly a third of the popular. See here
Football Australia reported that for 2021 " Women and Girls represented 174,380 participants in outdoor football, social and registered futsal, up from 143,873 in 2020, representing a growth of over 21% or 30,507 players. "
See National Participation Survey 2021 here .
It is also reported here that " Football has overtaken netball as the number one sport for young Australian girls in the important 6 - 13 age group' See see graph below
And don't forget the The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup - one year to go !
See details of the webinar below from Women Onside here
2. WHAT? - Where are the biggest opportunities ? Which programmes will have the biggest potential for growth?
The obvious opportunities would be starting girls and women's teams, providing holiday and after school activities for girls,girls one day football festivals, coaching courses for women etc .
Don't forget Schools Programmes as shown here
The English FA provide a very useful Female Football Toolkit here which can be adapted for other countries
We would, however,propose consideration of some of the opportunities we have highlighted in previous posts :
Target Girls with late birthdays :See our blog on the Relative Age Effect - this study of over 30,000 registered girls in Canada showed that : " relative age continues to be an important variable with respect to youth sport participation and continued engagement; with the relatively oldest being more likely to participate and remain engaged between the ages of 10 to 16 years"
Avoid Trials and Tryouts as shown in this post here on Informal Free Play - The Enormous Potential of attracting non participants to take up Football
Introduce and re-introduce teenage girls to football - see the research below from Canada
Non Traditional Playing Formats - Turn up and Play - witness the enormous growth of Flag Football ( non contact American Football ) in the USA for Girls outlined here , here and here ( NB a lot of Flag Football is Co-ed!)
Co-ed Soccer for Over 40's
Thirty something Women's leagues here
Walking Football for Women
3. HOW? 7 Ways you can tap into this growing phenomenon ?
Read this blog post here
Try our Online Course: INNOVATE ! Build Your Grassroots Football Startup
Sign up to our free webinar on how to capture and analyse data here
Review research such as this Research Report: " Reframing Sport for Teenage Girls: Building Strong Foundations for their Futures"
Follow the Sports Sister Blog here
Check out the use of Web 3.0 via https://www.readysport.xyz/ : LEARNING ABOUT INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY TO SUPERCHARGE WOMEN'S SPORT
Postscript: Female Pioneers for Girls and Women's Football at the English FA in the 1990's
The Women's FA was formed in 1969 and The English FA has had a chequered history with regard to Women's Football. It banned women from playing football and did not rescind this ban until 1971 when it recognised the Women's FA - largely as a result of pressure from UEFA !
In the early 1990's the FA took over all responsibilities for girls and womens football from the WFA. The FA Coaching and Education Department was given the responsibility for the development of girls and womens football including the International Teams. The Director of the Coaching and Education Department at the time - Charles Hughes- spent some considerable time and effort in persuading the FA to allocate budget towards 3 Female Regional Development Officers exclusively dedicated to girls and women's football as well as a part time National Coach ( Ted Copeland who was a FA Regional Development Officer ) In addition a full time Women's Football Coordinator was appointed to coordinate and integrate women's football into the existing FA and County FA structure.
The FA held its first Women's Football Development Conference at Lilleshall in the autumn of 1991 at which all the speakers were female with the then Chief Executive of the National Coaching Foundation Sue Campbell ( now Baroness Campbell and Head of Women's Football at the FA ) gave the keynote speech
The initial team of Female Regional Development Officers appointed in 1991 were Karen Peacock ( nes Gale), Karen Moore and Helen Jevons. Kim Moore and Karen Gale left in 1992 to be replaced by Julie Lewis and Kelly Simmons. Helen Jevons was promoted to the position of Womens Football Coordinator in 1993 to be replaced by Donna McIvor
There job was to involve girls and women in football and especially FA programmes like Funweeks, Mini - Soccer, FA Coaching Centres and Soccer Star for girls and FA Coaching Courses for women. They were able to establish Female County Coaching Representatives in County FA's and critically supported the growing number of Local Government Football Development Officers and Football in the Community Officers in Premier League and Football League Clubs.
The inception in 1991 of an amalgamated Football in the Community Programme involving the PFA, the FA, Football League and then the Premier League was a massive boost for girls and women's football in England as outlined in Roger Reade's excellent book here . There is no doubt that Football in the Community Schemes at Premier League and Football League Clubs have been driving forces in the development of the game in England
The initial appointments of Regional Directors in Girls and Womens Football working with Football in the Community Programmes, Local Authorities and County FA made an enormous impact on the development of the girls and womens game in England and it's easy in 2022 to ignore their massive contribution in the 1990's
In 1997 two further Regional Officer Posts were added leading to the appointment of Lucy Wellings and Rachel Pavlou . In addition in 1998 as part of the FA's Charter for Quality, Hope Powell was appointed full time National Coach and Kelly Simmons promoted to a new post that of Head of Women's Football bringing the total number of female development staff to 7: in addition the FA's first Talent Development Programme was launched with 20 Centres of Excellence
Pre 1990 there had been many stalwarts in the development of the women's game in the England involving people like Pat Gregory and Sue Lopez .In the 21st Century the FA has continued to invest considerable time and resources in the girls and women's football but those female pioneers in football development in the 1990's shouldn't be forgotten
PPS : Where are they now ?
- Helen Jevons is currently a Social Worker in Townsville, Queensland, Australia
- Kim Moore left the FA to coach soccer in the USA and is currently a business owner in Newcastle
- Julie Lewis had 9 years at the FA and is now General Manager of Leeds United Women FC
- Lucy Wellings is currently Senior Women's Football Clubs Manager at The Football Association
- Rachel Pavlou is currently the FA Women’s Development Manager – Diversity & Inclusion. Her main areas of responsibility is to develop football opportunities for female underrepresented communities. She is also a designated Expert in Women's Football Development at FIFA, and a Trustee at Aston Villa FC Foundation.
- Hope Powell took charge of the team in 1998 and pushed the boundaries to ensure England could better compete with the leading nations. A UEFA Women's Euro Final in 2009, and Quarter-Final finishes at the 2007 and 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup highlighted England’s growing stature within the women’s game. Powell would also go onto lead Team GB into the London Olympics in 2012. Having already been awarded an MBE and OBE, Powell was made a CBE in 2012 in recognition of her contribution to the women’s game. After significantly moving the game in England forward during her time with The FA, Powell worked with FIFA as a consultant before taking up her current role as head coach of Brighton & Hove Albion in 2017.
- Kelly Simmons OBE took up the new role of Director of the Women’s Professional Game in September 2018. She was previously The FA Director of Participation and Development and oversaw the implementation of a £200m four-year investment programme into children’s and grassroots football. Kelly was awarded an MBE in 2002 for Services to Football, and received the BT Sports Industry Award for ‘Leadership in Sport’ in 2016. In 2021, she was awarded an OBE for Services to Women’s Football.