The Future of Girls Football in the England | We Make Footballers (2024)

For women’s football in England, 2019 was a record-breaking year in every sense. More women played the sport than ever before, the Women’s Super League attendance record was smashed on three separate occasions and the Lionesses secured record figures for those watching both in stadiums and at home on television.

The big question now is what does the future hold for women’s football in England? After such an impressive 2019, can the game continue to maintain it’s dramatic climb in popularity? The answer looks to be an unequivocal yes. We’ve only been treated to a glimpse of what girls’ football can be in this country.


Every year, the Football Association release figures for the number of women who are regularly playing the sport and every year, that number increases. But nothing before has compared to the spike we saw in 2019.

According to the FA report, 2.63m women in England over the age of 16 played football last year. That’s up from 1.7m in 2018, a rise of nearly a million in a single calendar year. For some idea of the speed at which women’s football has grown over an extended period of time, in 1993 there were just 10,400 women playing the sport.

There are multiple reasons behind the explosion in female participation. Many grassroots clubs are now running women’s sections alongside their long-standing male sections, creating a greater number of opportunities for girls to take up football. With this increase in clubs comes an increase in competitive leagues and improved coaching standards. This in turn incentives more females to play the sport.

The FA themselves have invested heavily in the women’s game. In 2017, they set out an ambitious target of doubling female participation across football by 2020. In playing terms, that meant increasing the number of registered teams from 6,000 to 12,000. The latest figures show that they are well on course to achieving that number by the end of this year.The Future of Girls Football in the England | We Make Footballers (1)


As part of the FA’s ‘Gameplan for Growth’ document, the association identified one of the key areas that could boost participation as getting more girls to take up the game at a young age. Encouraging and nurturing a lifelong love of football in school-aged girls would create a steady stream of talent who would continue playing the sport once they reached adulthood.

To achieve this aim, the FA launched their SSE Wildcat Centres, a network of 200 girls’ football clubs which were run in association with grassroots and professional sides for the purpose of providing free training to girls on a weekly basis.

Initially, the FA wanted 200 Wildcat Centres spread around England. So successful was the scheme that by 2019, there 1,250 running across the country.

Football coaching academies have been keen to seize on the benefits of running girls’ football programmes too. We Make Footballers are one of the south’s leading coaching schools with their weekly sessions across the country open to girls of all abilities.

With increasing numbers of girls signing up to We Make Footballers for professional coaching in a fun and safe environment, many of the franchises are planning on launching girls-only sessions over the course of 2020.

At this moment in time, specialist girls’ football academies seem significant because they are uncommon. With the growth of the women’s game in England, over the coming years they will become seen as normal a part of the football fabric in this country as boys’ academies.


The FA introduced the Women’s Super League in 2011. Originally played through the summer months, it switched to mirror men’s football as a winter league for the 2017-18 season and in 2018-19, it became fully professional.

Although early days, the move to professionalism looks like it could be one of the most significant moments in the development of women’s football in England. Standards have already risen markedly.

The prospect of being paid to pay the sport for a living meanwhile will no doubt entice many more girls into taking up football from a young age in the hopes of eventually becoming good enough to have a football career.

In order to partake in the WSL, the 12 members of the league must all offer their players a minimum of a 16-week contract and form a youth academy. These youth academies are designed to nurture the next generation of England stars, which will continue to drive standards up over the course of the next five years.


The WSL attendance record was broken three times over the course of 2019; firstly when 5,265 saw Arsenal crowned 2018-19 champions with a 4-0 win away at Brighton’s Amex Stadium in April.

The first ever women’s Manchester Derby between City and United then attracted 31,213 to the Etihad Stadium on the opening day of the 2019-20 season. That record stood until November when 38,262 attended the North London Derby at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

All three of those records were set in stadiums belonging to Premier League clubs – and women’s teams playing at the homes of their male counterparts looks like it will become a more frequent occurrence in the coming years.

The idea of ‘double headers’ has even been raised in the future; whereby a women’s match would take place at the same stadium on the same day as the corresponding men’s match. You might buy a ticket for Chelsea v Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium and get to see the women’s teams face off at 2pm before the men do likewise at 4pm.

Speaking of Chelsea, they too set an attendance record in 2019 for the most fans to watch a WSL game at a women’s home ground. 4,790 supporters were at Kingsmeadow for the Blues’ 1-0 win over Manchester United in November.

Cheap ticket prices, the chance to watch some of the world’s best talents and the accessibility of players – women’s teams are famous for signing autographs and posing for selfies with fans after the final whistle – are making women’s football in England a popular draw. Attendance figures will keep rising as a result.

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One of the most notable aspects of the Lionesses’ run to the World Cup semi finals last summer was the media coverage afforded to Phil Neville and his side. England didn’t just make back page headlines with their World Cup exploits in France last summer – they were front page news too, turning the like of Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze and Ellen White into household names in the process.

In terms of the WSL, matches are now broadcast live on BT Sport, by the BBC via their red button service and online. The 2018 FA Cup Final was shown in the primetime 5.30pm slot by the BBC for the first time and the 2019 final saw over two million people tune in to watch Manchester City beat West Ham United 3-0 live from Wembley.

As the game grows, so will the coverage it receives. Combined with record sponsorship agreements – Barclays signed a three-year deal to sponsor the WSL for a cool £10m starting with this season – you can expect to see women’s football in England receiving even greater levels of media interest.

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England have made the semi finals of the last three major tournaments; the 2015 World Cup in Canada, the 2017 European Championships in the Netherlands and last year’s World Cup just the other side of the English Channel.

The success of the Lionesses under Mark Sampson and then Phil Neville has had a huge bearing on the popularity of the sport. A quick look at the numbers will tell you that. In the summer, 6.1 million viewers tuned in to watch England take on Scotland in their opening World Cup group game. On the same day, Gareth Southgate’s men drew an audience of just 1.2 million for their UEFA Nations League game with Switzerland.

In November, the Lionesses hosted Germany in an international friendly at Wembley. More people turned up to watch England women under the arch than did for the men in their Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro five days later.

Another stated aim of the FA’s ‘Gameplan for Growth’ was that England should be in contention to lift the 2023 World Cup. If so much excitement can be generated through a succession of semi final defeats, imagine what winning a major international tournament could do for women’s football in England

EURO 2021

Which brings us nicely onto the best opportunity that girls’ football in England has ever had to grow the game. The 2021 European Championships are to be held in this country, with the continent’s finest stars set to grace Premier League arenas like the Amex, St Mary’s and Bramall Lane.

England will go into the competition as one of the favourites with a real shot of winning it. Imagine Houghton, Jordan Nobbs or whoever else happens to be England captain by then lifting the trophy in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley. An entire country inspired and a whole new generation of girls wanting to take up the sport as a result. Never has the future of women’s football in England looked so bright.

As a dedicated enthusiast and expert in women's football, I've closely followed the remarkable developments in the sport, especially in England. The evidence supporting the surge in popularity and growth of women's football in the country is both substantial and thrilling. Let's delve into the concepts and key aspects discussed in the article:

Participation in Women’s Football

  1. Rapid Increase in Numbers: The Football Association's report reveals a staggering increase in women's football participation in England. In 2019, 2.63 million women over the age of 16 played football, up from 1.7 million in 2018, showcasing a growth of nearly a million players in a single year.

  2. Grassroots Initiatives: The rise in female participation is attributed to grassroots clubs incorporating women's sections, leading to more opportunities for girls to engage in football. This has resulted in an influx of competitive leagues and improved coaching standards, incentivizing more females to join the sport.

  3. FA's Investment: The Football Association's commitment to the women's game is evident through significant investments, with the ambitious target of doubling female participation across football by 2020. The expansion includes increasing the number of registered teams from 6,000 to 12,000.

Increased Opportunities for Girls to Play Football

  1. Gameplan for Growth: The FA's 'Gameplan for Growth' emphasizes the importance of getting more girls involved in football from a young age. The introduction of SSE Wildcat Centres, a network of 200 girls' football clubs providing free weekly training, has been a successful initiative.

  2. Coaching Academies: Football coaching academies, such as We Make Footballers, have recognized the benefits of running girls' football programs. These academies offer professional coaching, and the increasing demand has led to plans for launching girls-only sessions.

The Women’s Super League (WSL)

  1. Evolution of WSL: The article traces the evolution of the Women's Super League, introduced in 2011 and becoming fully professional in 2018-19. The move to professionalism has elevated standards, and the prospect of being paid to play professionally is expected to attract more young girls to the sport.

  2. Youth Academies: To participate in the WSL, the 12 league members are required to offer players a minimum 16-week contract and establish youth academies. These academies aim to nurture the next generation of England stars, contributing to the overall improvement of standards.

Record-Breaking Attendances

  1. WSL Attendance Records: The article highlights record-breaking attendances in the WSL during 2019, with examples like the first women's Manchester Derby attracting 31,213 fans and the North London Derby reaching an attendance of 38,262. The concept of 'double headers' is also discussed, where women's matches could coincide with men's matches.

  2. Popular Draw: The popularity of women's football in England is attributed to factors like affordable ticket prices, the chance to watch world-class talent, and the accessibility of players who engage with fans after matches.

Increased Media Coverage

  1. Media Exposure: The Lionesses' success in major tournaments, such as the World Cup, has significantly increased media coverage. Women's Super League matches are now broadcast live on platforms like BT Sport and the BBC, contributing to the growing interest in women's football.

  2. Sponsorship Deals: Record sponsorship agreements, exemplified by Barclays' £10 million deal to sponsor the WSL, indicate the increasing commercial interest in women's football.

The Success of the Lionesses

  1. Impact of Lionesses' Success: The Lionesses' achievements in major tournaments, reaching the semi-finals consistently, have played a pivotal role in boosting the sport's popularity. The significant viewership numbers for their matches, compared to men's games, underscore the increasing appeal of women's football.

  2. 2023 World Cup Aspiration: The FA's 'Gameplan for Growth' includes the aim of England being in contention to lift the 2023 World Cup, further fueling excitement and interest in women's football.

EURO 2021

  1. Upcoming European Championships: The 2021 European Championships, hosted in England, present a golden opportunity for the growth of women's football. The prospect of hosting matches in Premier League arenas and the potential success of the national team could inspire a new generation of girls to embrace the sport.

  2. Bright Future: The article concludes with an optimistic outlook, stating that the future of women's football in England has never looked brighter, especially with the upcoming European Championships offering unprecedented potential for growth and inspiration.

In summary, the evidence presented showcases the multifaceted growth of women's football in England, from increased participation and grassroots initiatives to the evolution of professional leagues and the success of the national team. The combination of these factors paints a promising picture for the future of women's football in the country.

The Future of Girls Football in the England | We Make Footballers (2024)
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