Supporting The Past, Present and Future of Women’s Football

“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 working with the community in supporting the future of women’s football.”

Sue Smith, Doncaster Rovers Belles

Following the Lionesses historic win yesterday we reflect on the crucial role that EFL Clubs and their Club Community Organisations (CCOs) have played, supporting The FA, in the growth of the Female Game.

The prophetic quote from Sue Smith’s quote came over 9 years ago at the launch of the Female Football Development (FFD) programme. This EFL Trust project was incredibly successful and engaged over 45,000 women and girls and was highlighted by the BBC as ‘a landmark’ moment in the development on the female game.

Launched in 2013, the goal of FFD was to ‘Inspire the Future Female Game.’  The programme was funded by Sport England through The FA. FFD utilised the power and reach of EFL Clubs in their local communities to drive participation and grow the Women’s and Girls’ Game. The sessions built upon an ethos of fun, friends, and fitness.

However, despite the emphasis on recreational football, the programme offered a pathway into affiliated football which 12% (over 5,400) girls took. By the end of the 3-year funded programme, the provision of Women’s and Girls’ Football was firmly established and thriving in the EFL Trust Network. As another  example, in year one of the programme 55% of Clubs had a representative female team and by year 3 that had increased to 84%.

The EFL Trust’s partnership with The FA continues with two key projects. The Weetabix Wildcats helps girls aged 5-11 get involved with football for the first time with others their own age. The programme gives girls the opportunity to play football in a fun and friendly environment, providing the perfect setting for youngsters to stay active, build confidence, and meet new friends.

The Talent Inclusion programme recognises that social class, ethnicity and demographics should not be a barrier to success. Run by 34 CCOs that operate in some of the most deprived communities in the country, the goal is to create a pathway from community to full England honours, with an educated workforce that identifies and supports potential.

Last year, 123 players were referred from community environments – uncovered on outreach sessions, development centres, Kicks programmes and school projects, with a lack of access to high quality coaching.  Now, 22% of them have made it onto the monitor list and their talent is being .

Nicol Meredith the EFL Trust’s Talent Inclusion project manager comments,

“Talent is everywhere but opportunity isn’t. When you’re taking a kid from a council estate and saying to her, ‘you’re really talented,’ you’ll probably be the first person that’s ever said that to her. At the end of the day, it’s not about any of us at the EFL Trust or the FA or the CCO, it’s all about that young girl.”