Giving more girls the opportunity to play football at school can help build on the legacy that began with the triumph of England Women’s EURO 2022, says Swindon Town women’s football director Tom Hartley.
Chloe Kelly and Ella Toone scored the crucial goals as Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses beat Germany 2-1 in front of 87,192 spectators at Wembley on Sunday – the highest attendance at a men’s or women’s European Championship.
The success is the first major title for an English team since the men’s team won the 1966 World Cup.
But while the celebrations for the current women’s team continue, talks about how to build on the Lionesses’ performance have already begun.
Hartley believes it is crucial for football bosses to think long-term about how football can grow and put as much money as possible into grassroots football.
He said: “It takes time and it takes investment. Legacy is legacy, of course people are going to be so enthusiastic and engaged right now.
“But it’s about thinking long-term and how we’re setting things up so that every girl – regardless of their background – has the opportunity to get the best possible training in the best possible environment so that she can either play for As so long do they want to or move up and go through a path into senior football?
READ: Find a local women’s or girls’ football team in Swindon and Wiltshire.
The Town Women director of football says increasing the number and quality of coaches throughout the game would help develop the game for women, as would the frequency and standard of pitches available.
But the key for Hartley is to make sure girls can play football in a safe environment and break the misconception that school football is a boys-only lesson.
He said: “It goes back to ‘how do we get more girls’ football into primary schools?’ Because that’s like the safe place for girls to play.
“You know this environment. So when a teacher plays football in the sport, they can build confidence in that security. And then when they have confidence, maybe they feel like they can take that step and play for a club.
“But at the moment there is a small gap – girls who want to play but don’t feel safe enough to play for a club because it’s too big a leap. You don’t necessarily see that in boys’ football.
“I recently saw a statistic where only 44 percent of girls have the opportunity to play football in secondary school. When you put it that way, it sounds ridiculous.
“It has to get better, it has to increase. We need schools to think about making football a sport that boys and girls play, and not just a traditional case of boys playing those sports and girls playing those sports.”