How to get more girls and women involved in football

How to get more girls and women involved in football

The interest in women’s/girls football has grown in recent years, thanks to the sterling performance of all-female teams at international tournaments. The American National women’s team this year even won a lawsuit to get equal pay with the men’s team. 

Here in Kenya, the women’s national team- Harambee starlets- continues to show consistent growth and attract a significant number for key games. Girl’s football, however, struggles to attain the prestige and support their male counterparts receive. 

Despite the fact that many girls and women love football, it’s still a sport that’s overwhelmingly dominated by men. Even with our beloved sport’s popularity, women face barriers that prevent them from participating.

In this article, we’ll examine the barriers women and girls face in football and how you can make your club more appealing.

The history of women’s football

In order to understand the barriers women and girls face in football, we must first understand its history. Although the first women’s football match was played in 1895, it gained popularity in 1920 thanks to Dick Kerr’s Ladies team and the formidable Lily Parr, who attracted 53,000 fans during their Boxing Day match.

In 1921, things took a turn and the FA banned women from playing on Football League grounds. This ban lasted 50 years before it was lifted in 1971. It was argued that football was unsuitable for women.

Soon after the FA Council lifted its ban on women playing on the grounds of affiliated clubs, the first Women’s FA Cup was held.

One of the main reasons why football is a male-dominated sport is because of this ban. Sadly, women and girls did not grow up playing the sport and were actively discouraged from participating.

Women’s football is now much more accessible thanks to the lifting of the ban on the sport. By understanding the history and suppression that occurred, we can identify the barriers women and girls may still face.

What barriers do women and girls face in football?

For us to work out how we can engage more women in football, we should understand the barriers they may continue to encounter.

Football is for everyone, and as a grassroots community club, you have the responsibility of breaking down these barriers.

Some common barriers that women and girls face are:

  • Concerns about body image
  • Feeling self-conscious in a sports kit
  • Social stereotyping and harassment
  • Lack of role models
  • Doubts surrounding skill level or perceived lack of skills
  • Male-dominated sports culture
  • Peer pressure
  • Lack of girls-only groups
  • May wish to be non-competitive
  • Family commitments/childcare
  • Study/work pressures
  • Costs

In order to make football appealing to women, it must be made equal. A great example of how to make football more equal is Lewes FC.

Currently, they are the only professional or semi-professional club in the world that treats both its women’s and men’s teams equally. Their budgets, wages, training facilities, and pitches are identical.

It is hoped that other clubs will follow Lewes FC’s lead and commit to equal treatment.

Find out how Lewes FC has helped to change the way for women’s football.

How can you make your football club more attractive to girls and women?

Football clubs need to work towards getting more girls involved in football. We’ve suggested some ideas and actionable tips on how your club can make football more appealing to females below.

Before we get started, here’s a quote from Sport England to ponder over: “Change the offer to suit the women you are targeting – don’t expect women to change to fit sport and exercise.” In other words, football clubs like yours need to adapt to appeal to girls, and unless they do that, girls are less likely to want to join.

With the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 being hosted in England this summer, and after Barcelona’s women’s team-record crowd of 91,600 fans, women’s football is doing better than ever. It’s a great time to help make other girls and women fall in love with the game.

So, how can your club become more appealing?

Recruit female coaches and volunteers

You can’t expect girls to join football clubs if they don’t have positive, female role models to admire and look up to. Some have a preference to be trained and receive advice from someone who is like them – who perhaps has been through a similar experience and just gets it. It’s particularly important for teenage girls who are going through puberty and feel more comfortable addressing issues with a female coach.

Bring a friend

Offering “bring a friend” discounts or incentives can encourage women and girls to overcome their fear of going alone. For many people, the most difficult part of joining a new sport is going to that first session alone. This could be what holds them back. By letting them bring a friend, you can help them feel less worried. Also, this can cause a domino effect with groups of friends joining at the same time.

Dedicated changing area

Having a changing area dedicated to women and girls makes them feel safe, included, and reassured. It’s important for sports facilities to be able to meet the needs of women, and by providing them with a dedicated changing area, women and girls will feel included and welcome.

Run trials

As with most situations or sports, it’s always comforting to know you can try something first. By offering girls a trial period, they can get a good idea of how it works. It’s also a great opportunity for coaches to clear any misconceptions, limit any anxiety, and make it clear that everyone is equal regardless of gender.

Listen and act

What is the best way to understand girls’ needs? Simply ask them. Is a girls-only team more appealing? Do they prefer to compete or would they rather play for fun? Some girls might not feel comfortable playing with boys, while others might want to be on a mixed team for mutual respect. Also, not every girl will enjoy the competitive nature of football. Creating a team that appeals to your demographic is essential.

Assess your marketing

The images you use speak volumes. For example, if you only have images of boys playing football on your website and social media, it’s hard for girls to relate. Use slogans that are inclusive and general as opposed to ones that appeal to one gender.

Work with schools

Introducing football at an early age can have a positive effect on girls’ uptake and participation in the sport. Speak with local schools and encourage them to give girls the same chances as boys to play on a regular basis. In fact, the FA has promised to give every girl in England equal access to football in PE lessons by 2024. Your club can be part of that movement – find out more by reading this BBC news article.

Bring in ex-football female players

Whether it’s a local or national ex-player, arrange for them to deliver assemblies at local schools. This should be to provide education on women’s football and how girls can get involved. The aim is to empower girls and give them something to aspire to whilst also making boys aware that girls can play football too.

You can contact your local professional women’s teams, who are always keen to help in any way they can. If they have the time they will even be able to join a training session and visit local schools. For a morale booster, they can even send videos to your girls’ squad.

Geoffrey Nevine — IT Services and IT Consulting

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