Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston insists there is a “deliberate and conscious focus” on increasing girls’ participation in football inside and outside of school.
Euro 2022 has captured the imagination of the public, with hosts England due to take on Germany in Sunday’s final at Wembley.
BBC expert Ian Wright spoke passionately earlier this week about the importance of seizing this moment to ensure girls have equal access to PE football as boys.
One of the aims of the Football Association’s four-year ‘Inspiring Positive Change’ strategy is to ensure that every child of primary school age has the same access to sport as boys at school and in clubs by 2024.
The FA reported this year that only 63% of schools offer girls’ football lessons in physical education classes and only 40% of schools offer regular after-school football for girls.
While at the primary level 72% of schools offer it, this percentage drops to 44% at the secondary level.
Huddleston believes the FA’s strategy and the success of Sarina Wiegman’s side will inspire more girls and women to get into the sport.
“There has been a deliberate and conscious focus on the strategy to inspire more girls and what the legacy of the Women’s Euro will be,” he told the PA news agency.
“Money has been invested to do precisely the things (that Ian Wright talked about). There has been a concentration and it will have an impact. I think it’s really important to make sure that young people, especially girls, can be interested in a sport at school.
“Certainly when I was in school, that was one of the problems we had for decades with sport in schools – the girls played netball and a few other things and the boys played cricket and soccer.
“When I was at school, a lot of girls were told they weren’t very good at sports or were pushed into sports they didn’t like.
“There is now a much more diverse range of options for children to engage with in school and also outside of school. So there is always something for everyone. Everyone should have the opportunity to really engage and participate, including at the local level, in something they love.
Huddleston attended a number of tournament matches, including the opening game between England and Austria at Old Trafford.
“What’s really amazing is when you look at the audience. There are many women and many, many, many young girls,” he said.
“Some of those watching these games now will be our football players and football stars of the future, right?
“It’s great to see a new generation of young girls who are passionate about sport, and football in particular. Women’s sport is getting better and better in this country.
Huddleston said discussions are continuing on who should chair the review of women’s football that was recommended in the fan-led review and an announcement would follow soon.