THE RISE OF WOMEN AND GIRLS’ FOOTBALL
A Question and Answer Session with Bethan Woolley
Firstly, please can you explain what your role as Football Participation Officer with Staffordshire FA involves?
Our role as Participation Officers is to strategically develop football within Staffordshire, offering support and guidance to our members whilst also providing innovation to support the development of football For All. My role heavily concentrates of female participation, enabling an accessible platform for every female within the county to play football.
What would you regard as the most rewarding element of your role?
I have been in the role for almost four years now and it is amazing to see players developing through the age ranges – there are also players who progress into referees, coaches, and volunteers. A huge part of our role is to inspire, support and develop – and seeing young ladies do that has to be the most rewarding part of the job.
Do you feel that women and girls’ participation in Staffordshire is heading in the right direction?
Absolutely, participation numbers are increasing year on year. The introduction of The FA’s Gameplan For Growth Strategy, SSE Wildcats and our Mums Play initiative have really supported this in the past three years. There are more females playing now than ever before.
How much can tournaments like the FIFA Women’s World Cup help to inspire the next generation of female footballers?
The Lionesses continue to act as perfect role models for the female game, and with them being one of the strongest teams in the world we continuously see a trend in increased participation around their games and tournaments. The media coverage of the World Cup this summer has been better than we could have imagined; this absolutely helps in inspiring young girls.
What have you made to the Lionesses’ World Cup campaign so far and how do you see Tuesday’s semi-final against the USA playing out?
I don’t think any of us expected any less; it’s a strong team, and the togetherness has shown more and more as the tournament has gone on. Tonight will be a tough game but with the way Phil Neville has guided the team so far, and following the achievements in the SheBelieves, I have every faith in the team.
What advice would you give to a parent looking to get their daughter into football for the very first time?
The SSE Wildcats Girls Football Centre programme is designed to offer girls aged 5-11 regular opportunities to play football and take part in fun, engaging activities created just for girls. These are delivered all around the country, and we have 28 centres in Staffordshire. You can find your closest centre at www.thefa.com/ssewildcats
What can Staffordshire FA offer to adult females who wish to either start playing for the first time or pick it back up after some time away?
We offer two programmes for adult females wishing to continue or start football away from the traditional 11v11 format. We have a ladies veterans over-30s league for ladies looking to retire from the game and a Mums Play initiative for beginners aged 16+. You can find out more at www.staffordshirefa.com/players/women
What are the best steps to take when setting up a new female team in Staffordshire?
Firstly, contact us at the Staffordshire FA. There are often funding opportunities that can support with the development of new teams. Further to this we can support you with finding a league, recruiting players, coaches and much more.
Finally, where do you hope to see women and girls’ football in five years’ time?
The FA’s aim is to double female participation by 2020, and we are definitely on the right tracks. The success on a national stage will absolutely support us in developing the game at a local level, with a continuous increase in participation, coaching and refereeing. Now is a fantastic time to be a female footballer with an amazing increase in opportunities at all levels.
If you have questions on any of the topics discussed in today’s Q&A session, please get in touch on Support@StaffordshireFA.com
Bethan will also be making an appearance on BBC Radio Stoke tomorrow morning (3 July) to talk about women’s football in Staffordshire. Make sure you’re tuned in and keep an eye on our social media channels for updates.
The Lionesses take on the USA at 8.00pm this evening (2 July) and you can watch all of the action on BBC One from 7.30pm. Come on England!