In a time where Girls’ Football is being promoted and encouraged more than ever, International Women’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to highlight the advances the ESFA has seen in girls’ football over the last 26 years.
The Association began running specific National Cup competitions for girls in 1996 and now offers 13 National Competitions for girls’ teams from U11 – U18 Super League, including District and County representative competitions. Alongside these opportunities for girls’ teams to be crowned National Champions each season, the ESFA also boasts an England U15 Schoolgirl squad, which, after a gruelling trials process, gives 18 top-flight players the opportunity to represent their country each season.
Holly Tickle, 21/22 England U15 centre back said about her opportunity to be part of the England squad “There was so many girls at the trials at such a high standard, that I was really happy to be selected. Playing schools’ football gives you the opportunity to meet new people, have new opportunities and meet new coaching staff.” Ella Baker, England U15 winger added “It’s nice playing with another group of people, other than your usual football team and making new friends.” when asked what advice she would give to other girls thinking of trialing for representative football she said “Just keep going. It’s crazy how much you can do, if you just keep at it”
Through its huge network of volunteers, the ESFA’s County and District Schools’ FAs also offer local footballing opportunities for girls in a variety of formats, right across the country.
Whilst girls are able to play in mixed squads up to the age of U18, the ESFA has created and maintained opportunities for girls to represent their school, district or county in teams dedicated purely to the development of the girls’ game. The current 2021/22 season has seen a record number of girls’ teams io ESFA competitions, creating opportunities for around 30,000 players to take part in activity.
The ESFA’s Schools’ Football Week campaign, in association with Haier, which ran from 7th – 13th February 2022 had a specific focus on girls’ football and encouraged schools that took part to create and amplify activity specifically with this focus in mind. The campaign saw over 57,000 girls have access to activity generated for their needs with over 300 schools stating that they would like to regularly run girls’ football.
The Association’s newly launched Hotshots intra-school campaign will provide a new opportunity for more schools to embrace intra-schools football and will hopefully provide a route for more girls’ activity to be prioritised within schools over the coming weeks. The ESFA is hopeful that, leading on from February’s Schools’ Football Week, ESFA Hotshots will create an extended platform for schools to further their participation in girls’ football.
Andrea Chilton, CEO of the English Schools’ FA said “As the National Governing Body for Schools’ Football, it has always been a priority for us to ensure that football is available to be accessed by all children regardless of gender, age, ability or geographical location. We have been delighted with the numbers of schools we’ve seen return to National Cup competitions, post-pandemic and to see the record breaking number of girls’ teams participating in activity in 21/22 has been a real boost to us. It’s as important to us now, as it’s always been to ensure we create opportunities to develop the girls’ game across all age groups and ensure that we continue to provide high quality experiences, competitive or otherwise, to engage girls in football and share with them the many benefits it brings to school children”
The National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England.