Equal opportunity is everything, in sport, but also in life. Realising your potential in anything carries so many more obstacles without the opportunity to get started in the first place.
Women’s football has been full of pioneers and trailblazers over the last 50 years, since the FA repealed its archaic ban on the sport. But now female participation in football is increasingly normalised – that is what those at the highest level want it to be…just normal.
It all has to start with that first chance, though.
If a young girl has an opportunity to play football, she can dream of a career in the game just like boys have always done. We are now seeing the first generation of female players emerging for whom a career as a professional career has always been a possibility.
But in England that only exists in the WSL, with the Women’s Championship still semi-pro at most.
More investment towards the top of the pyramid will help that – in addition to already sponsoring the WSL, Barclays will partner with the Championship from 2022/23 onwards. Overall, the bank has invested £30m into the development of women’s football.
But football matters at the grassroots level too, and that initial ‘chance’ to play.
Already, Barclays initiatives mean that 63% of girls in schools can access football. But by 2024 the target is for all girls in England to have equal access to football in schools.
Playing football doesn’t always have to end in a full-time career. But the benefits even for those who just play recreationally are huge.
On top of the obvious upside of physical exercise, it promotes teamwork, and lasting positive effect – 80% of girls show more confident behaviour because of playing football. Manchester United and England star Ella Toone even told 90min in March that you ‘make friends for life’ in football.