Over 30,000 women and girls have starting playing football in the past two year with their local Football League Club including Preston North End, a report reveals this week.
The Football League Trusts Female Football Development programme (FFD) is run by 55 clubs across the country including PNE, and aims to get women and girls playing the game. Perhaps more importantly the figures also reveal that over 97% of the women and girls who have been introduced to football have continued to be involved.
Nicol Meredith, Female Football Officer with The Football League Trust, comments, “Getting so many girls involved in the programme that are new to football and the massive retention rates shows the power that football clubs have in their communities.
The programme focuses on having fun as well as the social and health benefits of playing football. This innovative approach has led to football clubs running brand new activities that appeal to girls who wouldn’t normally be interested in football such as Soccercise and Zumba Fitness Football, which are football based aerobics sessions. ”
The programme is funded by The FA and Sport England and was launched in 2013 to get women and girls aged 14 and over to start, and continue, playing football using the reach Football League Trusts and Premier League to deliver at grassroots. This is the first time that all four organisations have worked on a project of this kind. It was announced over the summer that due to the success of the first two years of the scheme more than £3,700,000 of joint FA and Sport England investment will be allocated to the programme by July 2016.
Women and Girls Football Officer at Preston North End, Mel Brown, is delighted with the progress of the programme, and explains just what PNE are doing to help women and girls in football.
“In years one and two, we engaged 792 brand new girls into the game, and year three’s project should take us well over the 1100 mark.
“We have succeeded by tying in with all the local schools and colleges delivering PE lessons and after school lessons. With this we have mentored teachers and aided their development in delivery of football to teenage girls in a hard to reach groups with low motivation.
“We are the stepping stone for any girls who had pre-misconceptions of the game thinking it was just for boys or it can’t be fun. The way we have gone about engaging these individuals by having the session emphasis more on fun and throwing back to games from their youth, while having a football at their feet.
“Once the girls are enjoying their football they then then have the option to take the next step up to club level if they wish. With us having all the geographical information for local teams, we pass the contact details of appropriate managers for any girls interested in taking their football further.
“We also run a Women’s Futsal Session every Tuesday 8-9pm at PlayFootball Preston. This is a ‘turn up and play’ session where the ladies split into teams, play football and have a coffee in the bar every week.
“This is appeals to a variety of individuals, such as ex-players looking for a more casual environment, current players looking to develop their skills, and brand new players coming into the game.
Another success of the programme is that participation among minority ethnic groups in the FFD programme is over 20%. Nicol, continues “Football has an amazing power to break down all kinds of barriers.
As well as getting hard to reach groups involved in the game our sustained approach to developing female participation is getting more women in key positions at professional Football League clubs and their Community Schemes. Furthermore with the success of the Lionesses at the World cup, we are looking to capitalise even more on the extra interest that this has provoked and get more girls benefiting from playing football.”
For more information on FFD session at Preston North End contact Women and Girls Football Officer on firstname.lastname@example.org.