featured, Girls' Football, Schools' Football Week

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
featured, Girls' Football, Schools' Football Week

The Schools’ Cup Roundup, Schools’ Football Week Special -February 2023

Following the ESFA National Cup live draws, we take a look back at some of the best ESFA schools’ cup fixtures from over the winter period, all captured by the ESFA’s official photographer Garry Griffiths from 353 Photography.

It is safe to say there were plenty of challenges this winter with fog, rain, snow and pigeons causing disruption to schools’ football, although watching the World Cup while on a train heading to matches had my brain thinking it was summer!

Opening days of the World Cup saw a sunny day in the Lakes as West Lakes Academy pushed Montgomery High School all the way, before a trip to Burnley College in the Men’s U18 Super League group stages; as Rossall School travelled across Lancashire for a hard fought and entertaining 2-2 draw.

A dominating win for Dr Challoners Grammar School saw some excellent goals despite the awful weather, while wins for Rainford High and Market Bosworth School saw progress for two girls’ teams that appeared in Monday’s live draws.

The fog encountered at Wickersley earlier in the month reappeared for Ormiston Shelfield’s win at Thomas Telford, while Didcot Girls’ School won at home in the sunshine just 24 hours later as we ended the month with four, excellent girls’ cup ties.

December saw a short month as the Christmas break combined with some awful weather, putting best laid plans on the back burner. The steep hill-climb to Chesham Grammar School was worth the effort though, as Ashlyns School edged past their hosts in extra time to progress in the U12 PlayStation Schools’ Cup for Girls.

Clifton High School also bagged a late winner in a dramatic tie with Akeley Wood. Northampton School for Boys won a cracking tie at home to Wigston Academy, after clearing snow from the artificial surface to allow the game to go ahead.

Thomas Estley’s win over Sandwell Academy concluded the 2022 portion of the season, with a frosty pitch thawed nicely by the afternoon and sunshine prevailing, for an exciting game.

January saw a unique schools’ cup moment, as a pigeon attempted to take part in the Sir Bernard Lovell v Ivybridge U13 Boys Cup tie! Despite its best attempts to get involved in the game, the players on the pitch provided more than ample entertainment, with a dramatic late equaliser leading the visitors towards a penalty shoot out win.

A trip to Dorset was greeted by awful weather, as Bristol Free School knocked out Parkstone Grammar School in heavy rain. A u-turn in the weather a day later saw bright sunshine in the shadow of Twickenham for Cardinal Vaughan v King Edward VII. A dramatic injury time winner put the Norfolk side into the quarter finals.

The theme for the month of January has been penalties, with Wrekin College scoring two in their win over St Bedes. One late to take the tie to extra time and one early in extra time to win through.

Cardinal Heenan edged past Tytherington on spot kicks, as did Brooke House College at Repton School with a late penalty save for Brooke House ensuring the game went to extra time, on a cold afternoon in Derbyshire.

Hymers College won at St Mary’s on spot kicks to make it into the semi final draw of the U13 Small Schools Cup, in their first season entering the ESFA National Schools’ Cup. Another Small Schools’ Cup classic quarter final last week saw Repton Prep claim a last four spot in the U12 competition, after coming from 2-0 down to beat Ludlow CofE School.

Last week ended with Moulton School holding on for a narrow win at Alcester Grammar School for a quarter final place in today’s draws. Meanwhile, Thomas Telford’s U13 B team knocked out Cardinal Heenan in the quarter finals, to end the Liverpool side’s hopes of returning to the Hawthorns.

Some cracking football action seen up and down the country over the winter and we hope the sunshine arrives in time for the final stretch of matches, which will determine our finalists for 2022-2023!

A big thank you to 353 Photography for writing these reports and capturing so much ESFA Schools’ Cup action this month. If you would like 353 Photography to attend your Schools’ Cup fixture, please contact Jacob.Blades@schoolsfa.com