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The ESFA’s mission to create equal opportunities in girls’ football continues

The English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA), has been providing opportunities designed specifically for the development of girls’ football, since 1996 and this International Women’s Day, the ESFA shares how they continue to progress their mission of creating equality within the girls’ game.

For over 20 years, the ESFA has provided some of the best and most wide-ranging opportunities for school girls in England and continues to push further opportunities in the 22/23 season and beyond. As the National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England, it is a high priority of the Association to ensure that activity is available and accessible for all children, across the country. At the start of the current season, girls’ National Schools’ Cup entries had reached a record number, with 1,933 girls’ teams in competitions, equating to around 30,000 individual players taking part.

In September 2022, after seeing this record breaking number for the third consecutive season, the ESFA consulted secondary schools that had entered National Cup competitions for girls in 22/23. With the ongoing buzz from the Women’s EUROs and yet more teams taking part in ESFA competitions, the Association was keen to investigate whether schools wanted new routes into National Cup competitions for girls, with a view to further broadening the scope and availability for girls to play in competitive schools’ cup fixtures.

The outcome of this consultation was the addition of six new national inter-school competitions for girls, beginning in January 2023 and running until June 2023. These additional six competitions attracted a further 485 entries to the season total, equating to approximately 7,200 more girls taking part across England.

Brand new opportunities in Schools’ Football for Girls

The ESFA’s new competitions for girls have been introduced at the U13 and U15 age groups (covering years 7 – 10), offering new opportunities for teams across three categories of competitions –

  • Small Schools’ Cup
  • B Teams’ Cup
  • ‘New Teams’ Cup

These additional competitions all contribute to the development of the girls’ game in schools and will give new players the opportunity to play competitively in National Cup competitions, against other teams that are in similar playing circumstances to them. This consultation process with schools allowed the ESFA to consider what further steps it could take to try and match opportunities for girls in National Cup competitions to those offered to boys. The positive uptake means that the Association can now look at ways to consolidate these opportunities into the ESFA’s annual competition offering.

More to come

Following the success of Schools’ Football Week 2023, in partnership with Pro:Direct Sport, the ESFA and Pro:Direct are working hard to continue to encourage more girls’ activity for schools. The Partnership will provide a proactive platform to actively engage and inspire schools, teachers, coaches and players to experience more football for girls.

Millie Lake from Pro:Direct said: “We’re really excited to continue our partnership with The ESFA, especially after the record breaking numbers of girls who took part in Schools’ Football Week in February. Giving schools the support and opportunity to equally embrace football for girls and boys is something we’re extremely passionate about. The Schools’ Football Week initiative, along with our continued work with The ESFA, gives us the perfect platform to build upon our mutual ambition, to get more kids, of all ages and both genders, playing and enjoying football.

Girls’ Football Stats – 2022/23

  • Over 120,000 girls taking part in National Cup activity (secondary age only) through the ESFA’s competition offer
  • Over 108,000 girls took part in Schools’ Football Week activity in February 2023
  • Over 8,000 girls’ football teams entered into National Cup competitions in 22/23

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