Girls' Football, The World of Schools' Football

Record numbers of schoolgirls are registered and ready to be inspired by the Lionesses

Girls’ football continues to grow in schools across England as the ESFA receive record entries for their 22/23 National Schools’ Cup competitions

Shenfield High Schools' U16 Girls' team in their yellow and black kit, lifting the trophy and celebrating as they win their National Cup title at Stoke City FC

The English Schools’ FA has seen the number of girls’ competition entries across their U12 – U18 age groups grow steadily, since the first ESFA Girls’ National Cup was hosted in 1996. The latest figures of girls’ teams entering competitions for the coming 22/23 season is a record-high and will provide opportunities for over 29,000 girls in National Cup competitions from September. There is a total of 1,872 girls’ teams registered, which is a record number for the second consecutive season for the ESFA. The Association runs National Competitions for girls at every age group from Under 11 (primary) to U18 (sixth form).

The Association’s research on the 21/22 season has shown that 31% of its local Association activity is undertaken by girls’ teams, meaning that approximately 210,000 girls benefitted from schools’ football in the last season alone.

67% of secondary schools taking part in ESFA competitions for 22/23 are running girls’ teams, which shows that a large majority of those secondary schools that are committed to a schools’ football programme, are creating inclusive opportunities for both boys and girls. Of the 3,448 secondary schools in the country, 38% of them (1,312) take part in ESFA National Cup competitions, meaning that over 100,000 pupils are able to develop their game, with their school friends, each season.

The success of the Lionesses, at the most elite level of women’s football, has come at a time where the ESFA is seeing more girls than ever take to the pitch. The European success of the women’s team provides a huge platform from which young female players can be inspired by their triumphant and historic international season. For these pupils entering into the new school year and schools’ football season, they will be able to relate to Hannah Hampton, Georgia Stanway, Chloe Kelly, Beth Mead, Ella Toone and Leah Williamson, who all represented their schools and played in the ESFA’s PlayStation F.C. Schools’ Cup competition. Chloe Kelly and Kiera Walsh both played in the U16 Schools’ Cup competition, sponsored at the time, by the Premier League and furthermore, with mixed football permitted up until the U18 age group, it might be a comfort to know that both Ellen White and Alessia Russo played in their boys’ teams, with Alessia known as her team’s ‘Lethal Weapon’ during schools’ cup fixtures.

ESFA Chair, Stuart Botham said “Whilst we welcome the passionate messages encouraging a continued support of women and girls’ football, following the Women’s EUROs competition, we think it’s important to highlight the fact that the ESFA has been working tirelessly for many years to provide numerous opportunities for girls in England to play schools’ football. The ESFA often gets overlooked when conversations about school sport take place, but as the National Governing Body for Schools’ Football we are providing over 2 million playing opportunities for pupils in this country, across an array of competitive and non-competitive activities. It is fair to say that Schools’ Football is where the majority of English footballers’ careers have started – with this providing a positive introduction to the sport, allowing them to play with their friends and form team bonds that cements their connection and commitment to their school and to the game.”

The ESFA is consistently promoting the importance of Schools’ Football and the benefits it brings for all schools’ players from U11 – U18. The Association continues to develop its opportunities for different age groups and provide fantastic experiences for all schools’ football participants. The 2022 Schools’ Football Week campaign, which took place from the 7th – 13th February, had a focus on girls’ football and in itself, created opportunities for football activity for over 56,000 girls and 142,000 school pupils.

The charitable status of the Association means it relies on partners, sponsors, ambassadors and support to ensure its football provision can continue and, more importantly, grow and improve. This way, the ESFA can help to ensure the legacy created by the England Women’s team in 2022 is continued for years to come.

Photographs courtesy of 353 Photography