Female participation continues to be the fastest growing branch of football in England and is going to continue to develop and increase over the coming years. 2022 promises to be the most exciting year for female football ever, with the Women’s EURO 2022 competition being hosted here in England.
Since the introduction of the Wildcats programme in 2017, girls football participation rates have increased dramatically nationwide which now sees girls playing football every week. Now sponsored by Weetabix, this initiative provides a fantastic opportunity for clubs to grow and develop girls footballing opportunity in their local community. In Staffordshire alone we now have 50+ Weetabix Wildcats sessions taking place every week, as well as a huge increase in girls teams who have been created off the back of a successful Wildcats delivery within their club.
One club who has seen first-hand the impact Weetabix Wildcats can have is Berkswich FC. A grassroots football club in Stafford that was founded in 1988, Berkswich have always had a full playing pathway for boys in their local area from under-7s to under-18s. However, after never having any girls only teams, they decided to join the Wildcats programme on its creation in 2017 and began providing an opportunity for girls aged 5-11 to play football in a fun and safe environment.
Keith Halliday, Club Secretary and lead coach of their Wildcats Centre, explains their ‘Wildcats Adventure’ and how this has helped to grow the girls section within their club:
“As with most Youth Football Clubs, our junior teams had only a few girls playing amongst the boys," he said.
"Then, four years ago, one of the girls asked whether we could start a girls-only team.
"Yes, we loved the idea, but how would we attract enough girls beyond sisters and friends of the existing players? It seemed an impossible task.
"By embracing the FA Wildcats scheme, the club gained access to a structured and well marketed girls-football support organisation. Through its advertising, equipment and funding support, along with training session ideas and knowledgeable FA staff, Wildcats enabled the club to very quickly attract more and more girls across different age groups and beyond our local catchment. With the support and commitment of several mums and dads to coach and organise the girls, we created the confidence to develop our girls section, and it was not long before the girls wanted to play as a competitive team.
"Once we had established our first U8s girls team in 2019, the pace of growth rapidly increased. The Wildcats scheme proved the key attraction in creating demand for a girls-only football experience.
"We now have nine competitive girls-only teams from U7s to U14s, all the players recruited out of the opportunities that Wildcats has created. And still, more girls are joining…”
Weetabix Wildcats information evening
Staffordshire FA are hosting an Welcome to Weetabix Wildcats information evening on Monday 17 January. The meeting will start at 7pm and will be held through Microsoft Teams, with clubs and providers welcome to join and find out more information and ask any questions they have.
To register your interest, please contact Jake Triggs on firstname.lastname@example.org
The Weetabix Wildcats application window closes on Monday 31 January, with prospect providers submitting their application through https://faevents.thefa.com/