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Women’s and girls’ football in England sees record growth

The FA credits the increases in the recent success of the England women’s football team (Image: The FA)

The total number of registered females playing football in England increased by 12 per cent between October 2022 and October 2023. During the same period, the number of affiliated female youth players (girls under the age of 18) grew by 18 per cent.

The figures come from the Football Association (FA), which has published an update on its women’s and girls’ game strategy – called Inspiring Positive Change – which launched in 2020.

Data shows that there has been a 39 per cent increase in the total number of girls’ teams since October 2021 (aged between 5-18 years old) with a 17 per cent increase since October 2022.

There has also been an increase in the number of schools organising girls’ football. Inspiring Positive Change set out a target for 75 per cent of schools to be delivering equal access to football in PE lessons by 2024. That target has been met one year ahead of schedule.

The drive to make the professional game more accessible and representative of society has also taken great strides in the last 12 months with the talent pathway reformed. There are now 73 Emerging Talent Centres (ETCs) in place, feeding a diverse pipeline into the 21 established Professional Game Academies.

In their second year of operation, there has been a 93 per cent increase in the number of registered players at ETCs, with a 25 per cent increase in the number of players from socio-economically deprived areas and a ten per cent increase in players from underrepresented groups.

The FA credits the increases in the recent success of the England women’s football team, the Lionesses. The team were crowned European Champions at the UEFA Euro 2022 competition and followed it with making it all the way to the final of the FIFA World Cup in 2023.

Baroness Sue Campbell, The FA’s director of women’s football, said: “Our ambition to create a sustainable future for the women’s and girls’ game is shaping up to be a reality, with the power of football changing lives and opening up opportunities to a brand-new generation of women and girls. The transformational growth we are seeing across the game has been spearheaded by our trailblazing Lionesses and the legacy they have created for the generations of girls who will come after them.

“As we enter the final year of Inspiring Positive Change, I want to extend my thanks to everyone who has played a part in this historic period for the women’s and girls’ game. From our commercial partners and our talented teams at the FA and County FAs, to the players, coaches, referees and volunteers who dedicate countless hours to the game, none of what has been achieved over the last three years would have been possible without the collective efforts to drive positive change. We still have a long way to go for the game to get to where we want it to be, but the future of women’s and girls’ football has never been brighter.”

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