Women and girls
We’re investing more money than ever to create amazing places for everyone to play. And what’s more, we want these facilities to be designed with women and girls as a forethought, not an afterthought. We’re committed to delivering facilities that provide equal access to women and girls playing football across the country, by ensuring every Football Foundation applicant makes the same equal access commitment.
Women and girls’ football has experienced an unprecedented explosion in popularity in recent years, with a growing number of opportunities for everyone to play competitively or recreationally.
However, we are still facing barriers, and the more clubs and facilities that are welcoming and inclusive for all, the more women and girls will get involved.
When co-designing activities with women and girls, make sure you understand the motivations for being active at your facility. Whether it’s a formal training and football focused activity or a more informal activity or social event involving exercise, it’s important to listen to your audience.
If you promote your proposed developments to women and girls in a welcoming and inclusive way, you’ll engage with them successfully. Role models can also be an important tool, for example, having a female coach or leader can make women and girls feel more comfortable. Make sure your promotional materials feature women and girls from a variety of backgrounds. It’s also important to have male allies, championing female sport and ensuring women and girls feel welcome and equal.
Community engagement and co-design of activities is vital. Listen to women and girls to understand their lives, their motivations, and the barriers they face when it comes to being (and staying) active. Involving individuals from your target age group helps create opportunities that meet their needs.
Form relationships with organisations who work with the age groups you are trying to reach. To engage younger and teenage girls, create partnerships with local schools, youth, or uniformed organisations. This is a hugely underused tool currently. Football is being offered in more schools and community clubs than ever and there should be a clear pathway to a club for girls who enjoy football and want to play outside school.
County FAs often employ a Women & Girls Football Development Officer, who can provide advice and connect you to local groups.
There are over 700,000 more inactive women than men in England.
Women in sport research:
For International Women’s Day 2022, Women in Sport released new research which found that more than one million teenage girls (43%), who once considered themselves ‘sporty’, disengage from sport following primary school.
Considerations and potential challenges
When working with women and girls’ partner organisations, address both practical and societal barriers, for example creating safe spaces, considering family commitments, cultural influences, and other factors to ensure that you can co-design and offer suitable opportunities to get active. Make it as easy for women and girls to be active – choose the right time, right place, right welcome, right company, and right gear.
Societal pressures can create stigma and anxiety to being active. Experiences from school sports and pressure to look a certain way can have a negative impact. Always be understanding of this and ensure activities are suitable for any woman or girl to join regardless of fitness level, experience, or attire.
Affordability can also present a significant barrier. Sessions need to be at times which work for childcare, or the provider should ensure children are welcome. If possible, there should be parking, particularly if the facility is not on a public transport route. Participants can be encouraged to car share or offer lifts to reduce travel costs.
If working with faith-based groups, particularly those that require female-only activities, work with them to identify practical ways of ensuring activities are safe and secure. Can they take place indoors and away from public view? Are female volunteers or staff available to be on duty at the time? It’s important to work with these groups to understand their motivations and barriers, and to upskill clubs and organisations so this learning is embedded, and their inclusive practice grows.
The creation of relatable, inspiring role models is important for women and girls across all intersectional groups. This includes age, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, cultural heritage, religion and socio-economic status. You may already have club members or participants who fit this description who could inspire and motivate others.
Football belongs to, and should be enjoyed by, everyone, including transgender and non-binary people. The FA’s transgender policy should be referred to when making decisions.
- Any person playing football in an U16 match may participate in a match involving boys and girls without restriction.
- Over 16s (adult players) playing in an age range above Under 16 must be of the same gender. However, an individual may be eligible for participation in their affirmed gender. This will be subject to the approval of The FA on a case-by-case basis. The clearance procedure can be seen in the FA’s transgender policy document.
Transgender women must be treated fairly and given the opportunity to participate following the FA’s guidance. Coaches should be supportive throughout the process and ensure that everyone feels included and welcomed by other players.
For many women and girls, the social connection at sports activities is as important as being active. Speak with your communities to decide how to make activities welcoming. Some groups may have negative associations with the words ‘sport’ or ‘football’ due to past experiences. Other groups may find that emphasis on the sport is more important and does not present a barrier to engagement. Address this by listening to the women and girls in your community and consider how you present activities in an inclusive way.
Create a safe and inclusive environment that welcomes women and girls. Start by identifying what they feel comfortable taking part in and at what level.
Opportunities for younger players include the FA Wildcats (5-11) and Squad Girls (12-15) programmes – both extremely popular. For adult women, recreational sessions like ‘Just Play’ are an engaging recreational offer. These programmes help establish targeted activities for women and girls, particularly at football clubs.