Record number of women playing sport reflecting positive female initiatives in recent years
A record number of women are playing sport on a regular basis, according to new figures from Sport England.
The figures revealed in the latest Active People Survey show that a record 7.21 million women are now playing sport each week, reducing the gender gap - which once stood at over two million - to 1.55 million.
Overall 15.97 million people over the age of 16 are now playing sport every week - an increase of 229,400 from 12 months ago.
The boost in female participation follows the success of Sport England's This Girl Can campaign, with over 250,000 more women playing sport now than when the campaign launched in January 2015.
The Football Association has this year pushed a number of initiatives - including the increasingly-popular Girls' Football Weeks - to attract more female players to the game and build on England's success at the 2015 World Cup.
The FA are seeking to double the number of people playing and watching the women’s game by 2020, with their annual budget for women's football set to rise to £17.7m in 2016 - an increase of 16%.
Sport England's figures show that, overall, 1.84m people currently play football every week in England. This represents an increase of 29,900 on last year but a decrease on 2014 figures, which showed 1.9m people playing grassroots football every week.
The current participation figures match 2013 levels - which at the time cost the FA £1.6m in Sport England funding in response to a sharp decline in participation.
The 1.84m people playing the game today - as there were then - reflects a 10% decrease on participation levels in 2005, highlighting the challenges the grassroots game has been facing for the last decade.