Despite England’s historic success at the European Championship last summer, it seems that this triumph has had little impact on inner-city teenage girls. Shockingly, a recent report from Football Beyond Borders and Youth Beyond Borders disclosed that 63% of these girls could not even name any of the Lionesses, the national women’s football team. As the Women’s World Cup fast approaches, the findings are concerning, especially with one in four teenage girls admitting that they still never watch women’s football. Further, the report found that only a mere 17% of these girls are actually part of a football club. Overall, it is clear that there is still much work to be done in raising awareness and promoting women’s football to the younger generation.
Former England and Arsenal player Alex Scott spoke at an event to launch a report and shared her thoughts regarding the findings. She was not surprised by them, given her personal experience and conversations with others. Scott’s passion for overcoming obstacles was evident during her time as a commentator during the Euros. She acknowledges that her journey wasn’t easy, but with determination, hard work, and the support of others, she was able to succeed. As a young girl growing up, Scott realized the importance of staying focused on her goals, which is why she feels fortunate to have signed with Arsenal at the age of eight. Her story serves as an inspiration for all those who face challenges and obstacles on their journey to success.
In the aftermath of England’s stirring run to the Euro 2020 final, it felt like football had captured the hearts and minds of a nation. For many young people, it was a summer they will never forget, filled with moments of pure joy and excitement. However, for some teenage girls from disadvantaged backgrounds, the reality of their daily lives remained largely unchanged. Ceylon Andi Hickman, Football Beyond Borders’ head of brand, spoke about this disconnect, explaining that while the Euros felt like a momentous occasion, it was important to recognize that there was still much work to be done to address the challenges faced by young people who love football but struggle at school or in their home lives. Football can be a powerful force for good, but it is up to groups like Football Beyond Borders to help ensure that all young people are given the chance to benefit from its many positive effects.
Over the past few years, the Lionesses have captured the attention and hearts of the nation, inspiring a generation of football lovers. The progress made in the Women’s Super League cannot be denied, with increased attendances and participation rates. However, amidst all this progress, one important voice often goes unheard: that of a teenage girl living in an inner city. It’s easy to focus on statistics and figures, but what about the emotional impact football has on these girls and their identity? This report takes a closer look at their experiences and aims to understand what the next steps should be to ensure all girls have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the beautiful game. It’s time to listen to their voices and take action.
It’s no secret that the relationship between teenage girls and football is a complex one. The challenges go beyond just getting the physical space for girls to play; it’s also about considering the cultural space. According to research, it’s men and boys who gatekeep culture, dictating what’s cool and what’s not in schools. At the top of that hierarchy is often men’s football, which leaves girls and women out of the conversation. So, who dictates what’s cool? During workshops on the topic, one name that stood out was Bukayo Saka’s. He’s seen as peak cool, thanks to his positioning in the right places and the right collaborations. As a result, he could very well be the one to dictate what’s cool in schools, leaving teenage girls and their love of football on the sidelines.
When it comes to girls and women playing football, unfortunately, they are often viewed as the less impressive version of the men’s teams. This stigma can be particularly hard on teenage girls who are struggling to find acceptance and approval from their peers. With such a malleable brain at ages 13 to 14, young girls are hardwired to crave the approval of their friends. So, when the coolest thing in school is men’s football, and the girls’ version is seen as inferior, it can make it tough for young girls who love the sport. It is like living with a dual identity, never quite belonging to one group or the other. These challenges only highlight the importance of promoting women’s sports and providing young girls with a sense of belonging and pride in their accomplishments.
Women’s football has come a long way since its inception, but according to a recent report, there is still a lot of work to be done. Karen Carney, chair of the government review of women’s football, believes that recoding women’s football to make it cool and identifiable and hijacking men’s football to elevate the women’s game are key steps in breaking down barriers. But perhaps the most important element is giving teenage girls a voice in the conversation. Their experiences have gone untold for too long, and including them in the dialogue could be the key to propelling women’s football forward. With more women becoming involved in the sport and record attendance at games, the future is looking bright. It’s time to elevate representative leaders within women’s football to ensure that progress continues to be made.