How has the incredible summer that saw England’s Lionesses lift the trophy at the 2022 Women’s Euros, impacted girls’ grassroots football?

It is undeniable that the England team captivated the world on their way to victory and international interest in girls’ football atgrassroots level has hit new peaks since the tournament. Not only was it the most watched Women’s Euros in history, but we are also starting to see that it has been a catalyst for further progress in cultivating the talent of young girls that have a passion for football.

Many grassroots clubs have received unprecedented numbers of enquiries since the summer and have been inundated with requests from girls wanting to sign-on for their teams. For the first time ever, hundreds of teams have seen such an increase in the uptake of the sport that they haven’t even had to advertise online to recruit new players.

After acting as inspirational role models for girls across the country, the Lionesses then went on to write an open letter to the Prime Minister which they shared with fans on social media. In this letter they demanded ‘real change’ at grassroots level as they highlighted that only 63% of girls can play football in PE in the whole of the UK.

This is a concerning statistic, as it that means there is a large portion of young girls who do not have access to enjoy one of the country’s most beloved sports. 

However, it feels as though we are certainly headed in the right direction as the FA plans for 75% of schools to be able to provide access to girls’ football and 75% of grassroots clubs to have at least one girls’ team. It is said that they will achieve this through their new 4-year strategy ‘Inspiring Positive Change’ that aims to create a ‘sustainable future for women’s and girls’ football’ by 2024.

In the strategy, they have outlined eight objectives which focus on early participation, club-player pathways and elite domestic leagues and competitions. They have also set a target that 90% of primary and secondary schools in England will become a part of FA Girls’ Football School Partnerships network.

The initiative is supported by Barclays who also sponsor the Women’s Super League. Outside of schools the FA also devotes resources and funding to the Weetabix Wildcats scheme to promote recreational football sessions for girls aged 5-11. 

The importance of girls being able to access nearby places to play football can be seen in the struggles of many of the current England players when they were growing up. Leah Williamson, the 25-year-old who captained England throughout the Euros, reflected on how she didn’t ‘have the luxury of dreaming this big when [she] was younger’.

As was the case for many of her fellow teammates, she had to travel far and wide to find a team to play in. Without the schemes set up by the FA to ensure every girl has somewhere local to play, the logistical travel issues alone would be enough to prevent their ability to get involved with the support.

Amazingly, thanks to the success of our inspiring Lionesses and the determination of the FA to support local communities, it no longer feels unrealistic to say that one day soon there will be equal footballing opportunities for boys and girls alike.

Featured Image courtesy of Simon Walker/No 10 Downing Street via Flickr. No changes were made to this image. License details found here.

By Emilie Mwanza

Founder of LG Women's Football. Trainee multimedia journalist