Growing Opportunities for Women to Play in London
With the announcement of our strategy last year in which we aim to double the number of female players by 2025, London FA are committed to increasing the opportunities for women and girls to play football at every stage and at every level.
In this article, Jacob Loose reflects on the journey of the female game and how Footy Addicts is working in partnership across London to combat the obstacles which prevent women and girls playing football.
100 years ago, women’s football was banned in the UK. Since the ending of the ban 50 years ago, women’s clubs have been playing catch-up with long established men’s clubs in securing resources, facilities and attracting fans.
The popularity of the women’s game today was seen in the recent £15 million a year TV deal for the Women’s Super League (WSL) over the next three seasons. Kelly Simmons from the FA called it 'a landmark moment for the women’s game and a massive breakthrough for women’s sport and women’s football'. This follows a positive worldwide trend with over one billion people watching the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Unfortunately, women who are inspired by watching the World Cup and the WSL may struggle to find a local game themselves. Maggie Murphy is the General Manager at Lewes FC, the first football club to pay their men’s and women’s teams the same. To play small-sided women's games, Maggie remembered often having to ‘travel across London, sometimes only to find out that games had been cancelled when I arrived at the venue’.
A similar sense of frustration lay behind Katee Hui's 2011 creation of the women and girls community club Hackney Laces. 10 years on, with the launch of sister clubs Limehouse Laces, South London Laces and most recently Manchester Laces, the growing popularity of the grassroots game is evident. However, women’s clubs still often have to restrict numbers due to limited pitch space. Katee shared with us that in her experience ‘women in London are so keen to play football that they will sign up to multiple clubs in the hope of getting a game’.
Footy Addicts and the London FA have a shared objective in providing more opportunities for women to play. London FA stated in their strategy last year that they aim to double the number of female players by 2025. Footy Addicts currently hosts weekly women’s games in Shepherds Bush, Whitechapel, Shoreditch and Islington and will be announcing new venues soon. Gemma, who works as a photographer and regularly plays in Footy Addicts women’s games says that 'it is such a nice atmosphere to learn and get my confidence up'.
It is crucial to ensure that the next generation of female players has more opportunities to play. Footy Addicts is working with Bloomsbury Football to develop a girls football league to introduce new players to the game. Maria Hasler, Girls Lead at Bloomsbury Football, said that ‘I hope to create in London the kinds of opportunities that I enjoyed when I played in the USA’. Volunteers from Footy Addicts women’s community have signed up to help organise summer tournaments and act as ambassadors for the grassroots women’s game.
Footy Addicts is working closely with Bloomsbury Football, Laces clubs and the London FA to find additional training venues for girls and women’s teams to make the most of the pitch space available. We believe that if we work together and pool our knowledge we can achieve a similar breakthrough moment in the grassroots women’s game as we have seen in the professional game.