Girls' Football, Sponsors and Partners

Visit from former Lioness helps Stoke Poges School celebrate girls’ football

This summer, the ESFA and Panini partnered up in a variation to their usual Classroom Challenge activity to celebrate girls’ football, ahead of the Women’s EUROs.

Over 500 schools registered girls’ football activity as part of the ESFA’s Schools’ Football Week in February 2022. To reward their dedication, Panini offered them the opportunity to receive UEFA™ Women’s EURO England 2022 Official Sticker Collection goodies and the chance to be entered into a ballot to win a football kit for their school.

Stoke Poges School from Slough were the lucky winners, and in the new school year they received a visit from Panini plus former England Women and Arsenal player Faye White to celebrate their success! The whole school enjoyed a Panini assembly, delving into the rich history of the iconic company, followed by a Q&A session with Faye White – helping to further inspire pupils to achieve their footballing dreams.

Mark O’Donnell, football co-ordinator at Stoke Poges School, said, “We were surprised, delighted and truly grateful when the ESFA contacted us with news that we had been awarded a brand-new Panini-sponsored football kit following our support and efforts in encouraging more girls to play football at Stoke Poges School. For the school to then be able to welcome Faye White, a true Arsenal and England captain and legend, into our school to discuss her career, her challenges, answer our questions so brilliantly and then present our superb new kit, has left an incredible impression on every pupil in the school and will inspire them for years to come. Thank you very much to the ESFA and Panini for this fantastic prize and we will wear our new kit with pride!”

Nick Clark, Special Projects Editor at Panini said, “It was such a great morning, getting to share how we make Panini stickers and trading cards with the children from Stoke Poges School. Not only did they win a new kit, but they also got to meet England and Arsenal legend Faye White, and asked lots of brilliant questions. We hope the team enjoys playing in their new Panini-sponsored shirts, and best of luck for their games ahead.”

The ESFA and Panini have been working in partnership for a number of years with primary schools across England, promoting the importance of schools’ football not just on the pitch or the playground, but in the classroom too. The Panini Classroom Challenge has seen thousands of schools receive worksheets and goodies, allowing schools the opportunity to use Panini items as part of a reward system, and giving pupils the chance to win cash for their school by designing creative artwork across a variety of themes.

Stuart Botham, ESFA Chair, said, “The partnership between the ESFA and Panini allows our organisations to create opportunities for primary-school children in England to gain a different understanding of football within the classroom – something that is strongly connected to the ESFA’s mission. We were delighted to see the creation of an ESFA- and Panini-branded football kit this year and to be able to use this to reward Stoke Poges School for their dedication to growing girls’ football within their community. To have Faye White in attendance at the school was another fantastic addition to the presentation, too. We hope they continue to keep up the good work and that this story may help to inspire other schools to do the same.

Faye White, former Arsenal and England legend, helped the school to celebrate the occasion by taking part in a Q&A with pupils. She said, “What a great morning it was getting to meet all the pupils at Stoke Poges, along with answering some brilliant questions from some of the pupils.  It’s amazing to see so many girls taking part in the girls’ football team and I am sure they are going to look and feel great in the new kit they won from Panini. Hopefully it will inspire them to put in some great performances in the rest of their games this year. It was lovely to spend some time with the team and hear about all the reasons they love playing the game.”

The latest Classroom Challenge is in full swing across the country, with colourful entries flying in from schools, as pupils take up the challenge to design a sticker album cover. The competition will close on Friday 14 October, with one lucky winner securing a cash prize for their school. Follow the ESFA on social channels for updates on the winning design and, if you would like your primary school to be involved in future Panini Classroom Challenge activities, you can contact the team on paninicomp@schoolsfa.com.

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