Women’s football in England has the potential of becoming a “billion pound industry” in the next decade, according to a major review of the sport by former England women’s star Karen Carney.
However, the landmark report also found that, for women’s football to achieve that potential, there needs to be a “wholesale change across the game” – from enhancing minimum standards for professionals to rapid growth in the development of young talent.
The 126-page report is the result of a review commissioned by the UK Government following England’s UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 success. Its publication coincides with the build-up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.
The review, led by Carney, examined the opportunities and challenges for the women’s and girls’ game – from the commercial future of the elite game to the current professional environment, the fan experience and women and girls’ experiences of participating in grassroots football.
Among the report’s 10 recommendations is a call to raise minimum standards across the game and for the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship to become fully professional environments.
Other recommendations are that the FA needs to “fix” the talent pathway, if it wants to create future generations of world-class players. As part of this, Carney suggests that the FA should choose a strategic partner willing to invest in building a sustainable pipeline of domestic talent.
When it comes to facilities, the report calls on the government to deliver on recent commitments around equal access to school sports for girls.
There is also a recommendation that everyone involved in funding grassroots facilities – from the government, local authorities and the FA to the Premier League and the Football Foundation – should “come together to increase investment to accommodate meaningful access for women and girls to play sport”.
“The FA, Premier League and Football Foundation should work together to make sure women and girls are benefitting from funding flowing into facilities across the pyramid,” the report states.
Commenting on the report, Culture Secretary, Lucy Frazer, said: “I want to pay tribute to Karen Carney and her panel of experts for all the hard work and dedication they have put into producing such an important review.
“After the joy of last summer when the Lionesses lifted the Women’s EURO 2022 trophy, and as we approach the Women’s World Cup in just a few days time, we are at a milestone for women’s sport.
“Women’s football in particular has huge potential to improve the lives of women and girls and offer a special and accessible sporting environment for fans. Everyone involved in the game must consider the recommendations made in this report and help to take the game to the next level.”
She added that the Government will set out its full response to the recommendations in the autumn.
To read the report in full, click here.