The Rise Of Women's Football
InSITE editor Paul Rogers discovered that Herefordshire is at the centre of one of the fastest growing sports in the country. So don’t sit back, get involved!
Women have always had it tough in sport, particularly football. Predominately a man’s game; it has taken years of hard work and exposure to break down these barriers. Women’s football is now the fastest growing sport in the country with 131, 000 affiliated players. Herefordshire has been at the centre of this football revolution with vast developments in the sport happening across the county.
A key contribution to this development has been the recent setting up of the Futsal Technical and Skills Coaching Development Centre (FTSCD) in Hereford, the first in the country. Futsal is a small-sided game, sanctioned by FIFA and the FA to develop close ball skills as well as creativity and confidence among players. The FTSCD Centre was set up in partnership with Futsal Hereford and targeted young players and some of the most talented players in the county. The HFA Girls and Women’s Football Development officer Alexis Lunn along with HFA Football Development Officer Paul Carpenter were the key people involved in developing the centre. I spoke to the Alexis about the progress of the centre and the impact it has had for women’s football in Herefordshire.
Alexis has been involved in football nearly all her life. Initially she started playing the beautiful game with boys at primary school because girls were not allowed to play. After that she didn’t play again until about the age of 16 and since then she has been heavily involved in the sport. Alexis wanted to help develop opportunities for women and girls in the game and wanted to give something back. She’s now involved in coaching as well as refereeing. The set up of the centre is therefore a big step forward, with other centres in the pipeline: “We are currently twelve weeks into the Girls Coaching Centre, this sits below Centres of Excellence in the female pyramid of football, which caters for the most talented girls in the County at under 10, 12 and 14 age groups. Futsal Hereford will be running skills sessions in parallel to the Coaching Centre in the New Year, which will run on a fortnightly basis. In April, I want to re-launch the Futsal Skills Development Centre, which will focus on girls at under 8 and under 10 level. The focus will be on fundamental skills, for example balance, movement, coordination and agility whilst using the futsal technical programme to enhance their football skills before finding them exit routes into local clubs”, said Alexis.
Since taking up the post of Women’s Football Development Officer for the HFA, Alexis has seen massive changes in the game in the county and with the help of funding from the FA and media exposure, more people are now entering women’s football, whether it is as players, coaches, officials or volunteers. In Herefordshire there are now Girls Leagues at under 10, 12 and 14 age groups, four adult teams compete in regional leagues and a number of schools deliver girls football in curricular and extra curricular time. According to Alexis the links between schools and clubs is vital in sustaining the game. However, Alexis also believes that there are still gaps that need to be addressed: “I would like to see more female coaches working in schools and clubs, a league for players at U16 and U18 making the gap between Junior Football and Adult Women’s Football relatively seem less and more opportunities for girls with a disability so that we are seen to be inclusive to all ages and abilities” added Alexis.
There have been positive changes made in the game but comments like those made by Luton Town manager Mike Newell that women should not be involved in football shows that there are still along way to go. There is now much more exposure for the Women’s game, with films like Bend it Like Beckham and the national team being so successful. With the England men’s team underperforming and fans seemingly being alienated by the vast ticket prices, could the unthinkable happen and men's footy be overtaken by the women’s game? Only time will tell.