Grassroots and elite game get boost as record numbers turn out for women's and girls' football
At grassroots level, close to 40,000 girls aged five to 16 took part in the recent FA Girls’ Football Week - more than double the original target - while last Saturday a record crowd of 32,912 turned out at Wembley Stadium to see Arsenal win the Women's FA Cup Final.
The second edition of the FA's Girls' Football Week, which ran from 25 April to 1 May, saw a huge turnout of 39,529 girls - way above the initial target of 17,340 - whilst an additional 10,254 women getting involved took the total number of participants close to 50,000.
Girls' Football Week, which launched in 2015, is aimed at encouraging schools, clubs, community groups and other educational establishments to run female football sessions. A total of 342 primary schools and 106 secondary schools put on sessions for their pupils during the week.
“These numbers are great news for women’s football and show just how much appetite there is for girls to play the game," said Baroness Sue Campbell, head of women’s football at the FA.
“We’d like to thank all of the schools, groups, clubs, teachers and coaches who have taken the time to put on football sessions and give girls the opportunity to play. Hopefully these will all prove a big success and will encourage organisations to continue to provide football opportunities.
“We know the challenges that are faced with girls’ sports participation levels, particularly for teenage girls where drop-out rates can be high, but initiatives like this are a great way to address some of these issues. Girls need to be given the opportunity, facilities and confidence to play and we’re committed to providing these and increasing the number of girls who play football.”
Football is the largest female team sport in England, involving more than 2.89m players. Over 5,900 women’s and girls’ teams play affiliated club football.
The third edition of Girls' Football Week will take place from 10-16 October 2016, aimed at raising participation at higher and further education establishments.
Arsenal captain Alex Scott, who led her team to a 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Wembley (pictured above) has thrown her support behind Girls' Football Week and is keen for as many girls as possible to get involved in the game.
“There are so many girls’ clubs out there now that you can just contact your local club and find out if they’re holding trials or even if you can just go along and see what it’s like," said Scott.
“The great thing about football is that you can go along to your local club, have a kickabout, gain confidence and, most importantly, it’s a great way to make new friends.
“I’ve made some lifelong friends through football and that is one of the best things the game has given me. But girls now realise that they can make a career out of football if they want to, whereas that was just a dream for me when I started."
In more good news, Wembley Stadium has been confirmed as the Women's FA Cup Final venue for the next three seasons, so Scott will be hoping to lead her Arsenal team mates back there in 2017 to defend their title and extend their amazing record in the competition.
Their 14th FA Cup triumph - six more than any other club - was secured courtesy of a sublime first half goal from Dan Carter worthy of winning any game. Check it out in the highlights video below.
FA Cup Final image courtesy of The FA / Getty Images.