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Community: New scheme sees 15,000 more females playing football

10 December 2014

SUCET delighted with the success of involving females in the sport.

Southend United Community and Educational Trust is celebrating the success of an innovative new scheme that has seen 15,000 more women and girls playing football 

The Female Football Development Scheme (FFD) is run by 56 clubs including Southend United through The Football League Trust. 

By focusing on fun and fitness rather than competition and performance FFD has brought the benefits of sport to women and girls who previously might not have considered playing football. The relaxed, social atmosphere has also encouraged players back to the sport who had previously left the game because they didn’t enjoy the overly competitive nature of the sport.

Kayleigh Parrish (FFD attendee) said: “I have really enjoyed Southend United coming into my School to deliver 10 week Football sessions. I have now signed for a local team and am also attending PL Kicks sessions that are delivered by Southend United as well. This project has increased my self esteem and has progressed me as a player.”

Since the two-year scheme was launched in October 2013, over 15,000 females between the ages of 14 and 25 have played football in sessions which run for 30 weeks of the year. 

The Female Football Development scheme is run by the Football League clubs as part of the FA Women’s and Girls’ Programme, which is funded by the National Lottery from Sport England.

Southend United Community and Educational Trust have currently engaged with 110 girls in term 1 that are aged 14-25 with all participants taking part in 10 weeks free of charge Football sessions. Our target over the 3 terms is to engage and sustain 360 girls 14+.Most of our delivery is currently in Schools but out of School hours using the hook of the Football Club to get the girls involved. 

A lot of work has gone into trying to sustain these girls and we found a good way of doing this is to offer tickets, ground tours and first team players to attend sessions; also using pink balls, pink bibs and banners makes the sessions look more appealing to the girls engaged.

The Trust looks to create a pathway for all Girls that we engage with to go onto schemes that we deliver, PL Kicks, Futsal Scholarship or Apprenticeships. Girls that are not already signed on with an affiliated team we look to pass their details on to Essex FA and local teams that we have a partnership with so they can continue playing and developing as a player.

We have begun preparation of our own Girl’s under 16’s team to compete in a local league and signpost girls from these sessions to our team and then to progress them onto our Futsal Programme or Apprenticeships.

Debbie Brennan (Community Development Manager) said: ”We are really pleased with how our scheme is progressing.  Our female coaches have involved the girls in the development of the sessions and this is obvious with their enthusiasm, the progress they make each week and why they continue to play after they have completed their initial ten weeks."

Mike Evans, general manager of the Football League Trust, said: “Football clubs are at the heart of their communities and have an emotional pull that enables them to reach a vast amount of people. Our network of league clubs means we can access and influence communities all around the country and we aim to use this power to make a positive difference to people’s lives.  

"This as well as developing a strong partnership with the County FA’s has enabled us to provide ‘fun and fitness’ to close to 15,000 women and girls in the first year of the programme.”

The programme is part of the FA’s wider strategy on growing participation figures for women’s football and its vision to be the 2nd largest team sport after men’s football by 2018. The initiative was created when The FA, Sport England, the Premier League and the Football League Trust joined forces to provide new grassroots football sessions.  The target is that by August 2015, 40,000 females will have participated in football through the scheme. 

It is the first time all four bodies have worked together on a project such as this.

Kelly Simmons, FA director of national game and women’s football, said: “Working alongside our partner organisations to deliver such excellent results demonstrates just what potential there is for women’s football in this country, at both grassroots and elite levels. 

"One of our biggest challenges, apart from attracting new players, is retention, so programmes like this which run for long periods of time, will certainly help us tackle that and help women’s football to become the second most-played sport in the country.”

Jennie Price, Sport England Chief Executive, said: “It is great to see so many women and girls taking up the opportunity to play football thanks to this programme. 
 
“Getting women and girls active is really important to us. We know women play less sport than men but most would like to do more. In fact, almost 120,000 women tell us that they want to play football. But the opportunities have to be right for those women to turn ambition into a reality.”

Minister for Sport Helen Grant said: “It’s great news that more girls and women are getting into football at a time when so much effort is going in to strengthen and raise the profile of women’s sport generally.” 

For more information about the programmes, click here.

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