THE MAYOR of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and former England international Karen Bardsley have joined with The FA to call on schools across the city-region to do more to help girls get into football.
From today (Thursday 8 December) they will be writing to all schools in Greater Manchester urging them to offer at least two hours of PE per week to girls, including more football sessions. Their call has been backed by Manchester United and Lionesses striker Alessia Russo, who scored four goals at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 this summer.
Nationally, only 63 per cent of schools offer girls equal access to football in PE lessons, meaning more than a third are not getting the same opportunity to play in PE as boys. In Greater Manchester, 906 of 1,271 schools are linked to a Barclays and FA Girls’ Football School Partnership by England Football, through which they have access to training, resources and support for girls’ football.
Of these schools, 70 per cent offer equal access to football in curriculum PE lessons for girls, while only 46 per cent offer equal access for girls to extracurricular football activities – on a par with the national average.
The call from the Mayor, Karen Bardsley, and Baroness Sue Campbell, Director of Women’s Football at The FA comes in the wake of England’s momentous victory at UEFA Women’s EURO 2022, and echoes the letter sent by the Lionesses to Government asking for girls to have access to a minimum of two hours a week of PE. They also called for more investment and resources to support female PE teachers, in recognition of the crucial role they play as role models to school pupils.
The letter also lands as Manchester prepares to host another landmark tie between Manchester City W.F.C and Manchester United W.F.C this Sunday (11 December). The two teams will meet in the Barclays Women’s Super League at the Etihad Stadium, with Man United sitting second and Man City just three points behind them in fourth.
The Greater Manchester Women’s Football Board was set up in June this year, ahead of the start of UEFA Women’s EURO 2022, to develop women’s and girls’ football at all levels across the city-region. This includes increasing participation from players and newcomers at grassroots level, through to supporting established teams in the FA Women’s Football pyramid.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “While Gareth Southgate’s team prepares for their World Cup quarter final this weekend, let’s not forget that it was the Lionesses who brought it home first at the Euros. They pledged to use their victory to create a lasting legacy for women’s football, and girls up and down the country will have been inspired to step out onto their school pitch, their local sports centre, or into their back garden and dream of playing for their country.
“That’s an opportunity that not all girls have at the moment, and that’s something we need to change. That’s why we set up the Greater Manchester Women’s Football Board, and why we’ve written to all schools in our city-region calling on them to ensure that all girls are offered at least two hours of PE every week, including football sessions.
“If we want Greater Manchester to be the home of even more footballing success for generations to come, let’s level the playing field and make sure every girl has the chance to play football and achieve their own dreams.”
Karen Bardsley, former England international and Chair of the Greater Manchester Women’s Football Board, said: “The success of the Lionesses at this summer’s Euro’s marked a major milestone in the evolution of football in this country. So many were inspired by the success of the Lionesses - and here in Greater Manchester we want to capitalise on that success and deliver the legacy the England Women’s Team have championed.
“Every girl in Greater Manchester deserves the chance to play football at school and we’re determined to make that a reality here. From speaking to girls across the city-region I know how much confidence and enjoyment the sport can give, even leading to better attendance and performance in school.
“As our city gears up for a momentous Manchester derby at the Etihad this weekend, I’m proud to be working with Mayor Andy Burnham and the FA to help offer every girl in Greater Manchester the chance to follow in the footsteps of their heroes and become the next generation of Lionesses”
Alessia Russo, Manchester United striker and member of the UEFA Women’s EURO-winning squad, said: ““As a squad, we’re passionate that our Euro's legacy should be about creating lasting change for women and girls in football.
“The players that came before us paved the way for our squad to be so successful, and now inspire a new generation of girls to follow their own dreams in football.”
“Too many girls are still unable to play football at school and that’s why I’m fully behind Greater Manchester in calling for that to change - and encourage all schools to get on board.”
Baroness Sue Campbell, Director of Women’s Football at the FA, said: “The FA’s ‘Inspiring Positive Change’ strategy was launched in 2020 and pledged to address the inequalities happening in schools up and down the country by 2024. The England Women’s success at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 this summer showed the time for change is now and we cannot miss the opportunity that has been presented to us.
“It’s great to have the support of the Greater Manchester Women’s Football Board in driving our equal access ambition in schools across the country, and specifically in Greater Manchester where women’s and girls’ football is thriving. We still have a long way to go, but this is another step in the right direction. We’re extremely grateful for those that are joining us on this goal.”
The GMCA acts as the secretariat for the Women’s Football Board, and the Board reports to the GMCA and The FA. The Board held its first meeting on Wednesday 6 July, the day of the Lionesses’ opening UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 match at Old Trafford.
Letter in full:
Dear Sir or Madam,
Equal access to football for girls in Greater Manchester
This summer, this country experienced a phenomenal step change in Women’s Football, when our inspirational Lionesses became European Champions for the first time in history. Multiple records were broken both on and off the football pitch and the perceptions of Women’s sport in our society shifted dramatically.
After lifting the trophy at Wembley, the Lionesses pledged to create a lasting legacy: to ensure all girls have equal access to football in schools, in PE curriculum time and extra-curricular provision. Their open letter to the incoming Prime Minister asked that schools offer a minimum of 2 hours PE each week and they continue to pursue this ambition.
Greater Manchester has been at the heart of this historic moment, with Old Trafford, the Etihad and Leigh Sports Village hosting matches and almost half of the England Squad based in our region.
On Wednesday, 6 July 2022, the day of England’s opening match at Old Trafford, we held the inaugural meeting of Greater Manchester Women’s Football Board, chaired by England legend, Karen Bardsley. The Board has a clear aim; to develop an equitable and sustainable future for Women’s Football across Greater Manchester.
With demands to play or follow football higher than ever, the GM Women’s Football Board fully supports and endorses the calls in the Lionesses’ open letter to the Prime Minister.
We now want Greater Manchester to be the first region in England to realise the Lionesses’ ambition, for every girl across Greater Manchester to have access to football in curriculum time at school.
As pioneers and leaders in your field, we ask you to work with us to ensure all girls have access to a minimum of two hours of PE in their schools and all girls are given the opportunity to play football during curriculum hours.
If you would like to discuss this further or require support to help us realise this ambition in Greater Manchester, we would be delighted to connect with the Barclays Girls’ Football School Partnerships network by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by registering at https://www.girlsfootballinschools.org where your school can access resources and staff CPD for your school.
Baroness Sue Campbell
Director of Women's Football, the Football Association
Chair of the Women's Football Board
Mayor of Greater Manchester
Article Published: 08/12/2022 14:15 PM