The Sir Tom Finney Foundation is working with The Football League Trust in promoting the women’s game through the Female Football Development programme (FFD).
The foundation, in partnership with the Football League Trust, Sporting Champions, The FA and Sport England have been staging sessions at Longridge High School for girls aged 14 to 16 for the past few weeks aiming to increase the participation figures for teenage girls in football at that age.
Research conducted by The FA showed that participation levels for girls between the ages of 14 to 16 decreased and the programme is designed to combat the issue.
Taking the session on Monday was Doncaster Rovers Belles footballer Sue Smith who highlighted the importance of building on sessions like this, as well as embracing the enjoyment factor of the sport.
Sue, who’s also working for Sporting Champions, which is associated with Sport England said: “We’re here to keep the girls interested in sport and keep them involved and hopefully progress them on to playing for a Club.
“The most important thing is that we don’t just give them this one off session and then there’s nothing at the end of it - it’s vital that we maintain their interest.
“Every year, participation figures are increasing and we just want to maintain that so the standards keep getting higher.
“If we win a World Cup or a European Championships in the near future, that will be because of the grassroots side of things and because teams like Preston who are working with the community in supporting the future of women’s football.
Also taking the session was PNE women’s and girl’s co-ordinator Jody Kerr who also underlined the importance of the fun aspect of the game as well as documenting the influence initiatives like this can have on the future of women’s football.
“It’s important not to be too strict on them because if you are, the chances are they’re not going to come back the following week,” explained Jody.
That’s not what we want - we want to retain them - and hopefully progress them on to a football club around the area.
“As you can see, the women’s game is improving a lot and the more participation we get now, the more sustainable women’s football can be in the long run.”
Launched at the beginning of this year, the FFD programme is targeting women’s football to be the second most participated sport in the country behind the men’s game and they have been working alongside PNE as well as several other clubs in delivering free sessions to teenage girls to drive participation growth and sustainability for women’s football.
£2.4m is being invested in the next two years from Sport England funding and National Women’s and Girls Football Project Co-ordinator Nicole Meredith has added the significance of giving girls the opportunity to play the beautiful game.
“It’s a case of doing as many sessions as possible and giving girls the opportunity to play football in the first place which is something that’s not really offered as much up until this previous influx of money.”
The sessions have been taking place at Longridge High School for the past ten weeks and someone who’s been in attendance throughout is Joanne Ball, a PE teacher at the school and she has already seen the impact the sessions have had on the pupils.
“A lot of these girls have never played football before, but they’ve really enjoyed it and a few of them now want to take more of a part in football and in sport because of these sessions.
“When you first ask them whether they want to play, some of them step back and think ‘no, I don’t want to play football’, but once they get into it, understand it more and see how fun it is, they love it.”