Sports minister Nigel Huddleston insists there is a “deliberate and conscious focus” on driving up girls’ participation in football inside and outside of school.
Euro 2022 has captured the public imagination, with hosts England set to face Germany in Sunday’s final at Wembley.
BBC pundit Ian Wright spoke passionately earlier this week about the importance of seizing on this moment to ensure girls were given equal access to football in PE as boys.
One of the targets of the Football Association’s four-year ‘Inspiring Positive Change’ strategy is to ensure that every primary school-aged child should have the same access to the sport as boys at school and in clubs by 2024.
The FA has reported this year that only 63 per cent of schools offer girls’ football in PE lessons and that only 40 per cent of schools offer girls regular extracurricular football.
While at primary level 72 per cent of schools offer it, that drops to 44 per cent at secondary level.
Huddleston believes the FA’s strategy, and the success of Sarina Wiegman’s side, will inspire more girls and women to take up the sport.
“There has been a deliberate and conscious focus on the strategy of how we can inspire more girls and what the legacy will be of the women’s Euros,” he told the PA news agency.
“Money has been put into it to do precisely the things (Ian Wright talked about). There has been a focus and it will have an impact. I think making sure that young people in particular girls can get excited about a sport at school is really important.
“Certainly when I was at school, this has been one of the problems we’ve had over decades to be honest with sport in schools – girls playing netball and a couple of other things and boys playing cricket and football.
“When I was at school a lot of girls were being told that they weren’t very good at sport or they were pushed into sports that they didn’t enjoy.
“There’s now a much, much more diverse range of options for children to get involved in at school and also out of school. So there’s always something for everybody. Everybody should have the opportunity to really get engaged and participate, including at grassroots local level, in something that they enjoy.”
Huddleston has attended a number of matches in the tournament, including the opening game between England and Austria at Old Trafford.
“What’s really amazing is when you look at the audience. There are lots of women and lots and lots and lots of young girls,” he said.
“Some of those who are watching these games now, they’re going to be our football players and football stars of the future, aren’t they?
“It’s great to see a new generation of young girls really enthused about sport, and football in particular. Women’s sport is going from strength to strength in this country.”
Huddleston said discussions were continuing on who should chair the review of women’s football which was recommended in the fan-led review and that an announcement would follow soon.