onsıde| ISSUE 39 THE FA WOMEN’S FOOTBALL STRATEGY 30 F ootball is officially the most popular female team sport in England. Last season, approximately three million female players were involved in playing the sport either informally or as part of affiliated leagues and competitions. Compare that to 10,400 in 1993, when records started, and the growth in the game becomes clear. A hugely popular domestic league – The FA Women’s Super League (WSL) – and England Women’s third-place finish in the last FIFA World Cup is further testament to burgeoning interest in the game. The Football Foundation was named as one of The FA’s non-commercial partners in the strategy document and – working with our Funders – has helped support this growth since 2000. 96% of projects we have funded either sustain or grow women’s football. Facilities we have upgraded within the last five years saw female football participation increase by 20% last season, compared to the previous season, whilst 4,685 women achieved qualifications at Foundation-funded sites last year. The work to build on this continues unabated. The FA plans to double the number of women and girls taking part in football by 2020. Their newly-launched ‘Gameplan for Growth’ strategy details how they will get more than six million women and girls playing football within the next three years. FA UNVEILS WOMEN’S FOOTBALL STRATEGY “We want to welcome every girl and woman in to the game regardless of ability, background or age,” Baroness Campbell said. “There has never been a more important time for football to play its part in supporting girls and women to become physically active and to lead and administer the game.” The FA will develop ‘Wildcats’ – a new network of 200 girls’ football clubs that will provide local, safe and girl-friendly football programmes. The FA and County FAs will also implement local women’s and girls’ football strategies tailored to their communities. To change perceptions and social barriers around women football, The FA has created four roles: a head of women’s performance; a head of women’s coach development; women’s refereeing manager; and a head of marketing and commercial for women’s football. Other initiatives include: player profiling; the creation of a new talent pathway; a full competition review of the women’s leagues and the establishment of ten women’s high-performance centres. OF FOOTBALL FOUNDATION PROJECTS EITHER SUSTAIN OR GROW WOMEN’S FOOTBALL. 96% Baroness Sue Campbell, Head of Women’s Football for The FA, summarised the ambitious strategy into eight key priority areas: 1 Building a sustainable and successful high- performance system 2 Building a world-class talent pipeline 3 Increasing the number and diversity of women’s coaches, referees and administrators in the sport at all levels 4 Developing participation opportunities and infrastructure 5 Changing perceptions and social barriers to participation and following 6 Enhancing the profile and value of the England team and players 7 Signposting opportunities to participate, watch or follow 8 Improving the commercial prospects in women’s football.