Women's Football

Leah Williamson explains why girls need universal access to football in school

Jamie Spencer
Leah Williamson wants all girls to have the chance to decide if they want to play football
Leah Williamson wants all girls to have the chance to decide if they want to play football / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

England captain Leah Williamson has reiterated the importance of giving young girls the chance to play football if they want to in the wake of the Lionesses’ Euro 2022 victory last month.

It has been well publicised since the tournament ended that only 63% of girls currently have access to football in PE lessons at school. Even though there are targets set by the FA and lead WSL sponsor Barclays to achieve 100% by 2024, as of now some girls are still denied the opportunity to play.

“This is something we all experienced growing up. We were often stopped from playing,” the England team collectively said in an open letter to the UK’s next prime minister.

Ian Wright gave an impassioned speech about providing access to football at school on BBC One after the semi-final victory over Sweden that went viral on social media. Meanwhile, England legend Karen Carney told 90min in an interview, “We don’t leave it to 2024. It should be now.”

Not all girls want to play football but all at least deserve the chance to decide for themselves.

On top of the obvious benefits of physical exercise, playing football promotes and develops teamwork, while research has shown that 80% of girls who play show more confident behaviour. England hero Ella Toone even told 90min in March that you ‘make friends for life’ in football.

“There was a tweet after the Euros…it was really powerful and it was a girl in a princess dress standing, looking at the telly,” Williamson said on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4.

“And the point is, she doesn’t have to want to be a footballer. She just has to see somebody that looks like her, in terms of being a woman achieving what I want to achieve on the big stage and believing that she can do it.

“It might do wonders for her mental health, for the way she sees herself, for how she progresses in her life because she was able and had the confidence to go and commit to a sports team or to participate at one point in her life. If it’s not available and if before she even has the choice, if it’s decided for her that she can’t be involved, then what are we doing?”

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