Football Players Celebrate

International Women's Day

Reflecting on progress towards the goal of equal access to football in Hertfordshire

On International Women’s Day we celebrate the progress that’s been made in developing female football in our county and recognise the work that still needs to be done to deliver equal access for women and girls 

Opportunities for women and girls to be involved in football have changed dramatically over the last decade, with massive growth in participation and with a significant shift in the perception of the sport as one that is open and welcoming to female players.

Many will point to the success of the England national team, and in particular, the Lionesses win in the 2022 European Championships as a catalyst for this, but it’s clear that the foundations for this transformation had been laid many years prior.

Female participation had already been growing rapidly in Hertfordshire. Taking 2018 as a baseline, the number of players increased by 50% over the next two years and despite the impact of COVID, had doubled before Euro 2022 had begun.

Our Women and Girls Committee was established in 2021 to ensure that those with knowledge and experience in the female game could share their perspectives to help shape our work, which also led to the launch of our Women and Girls Pledge in 2022.

With support directed into establishing women and girls sections across clubs locally (including grants from the Football Foundation) aligned with the passion and commitment of volunteers across the county the female game was primed for its big moment.

Redoubling Our Efforts

So when the Lionesses sealed victory at Wembley in front of a record 87,000 crowd, rather than marking a start point in efforts to get more women and girls involved, it served to galvanise the game in its existing commitment to deliver equality of opportunity.

A key element of the Women and Girls Strategy launched by The FA in 2020 was to drive equal access to football in schools and we are proud to have more than 125 local schools across Hertfordshire taking part in the Biggest Ever Football Session.

We are also supporting the delivery of more sessions that allow those looking to take up the game for the first time, both young and old. To the highly successful Wildcats programme (which now has over 40 active centres in the county) has been added to with new Squads and Just Play sessions

Today we have more than 7,000 female players registered across clubs in the county and growth shows little sign of slowing. Of the ten largest female sections in clubs nationally, four are from Hertfordshire showing the strength and depth of girls football locally.

Tackling the drop-out rate of older players is now a key issue in growing the female game, but the signs are positive, with a viable U18 Girls County Cup being possible for the first time in 2023 and a new secondary Women’s competition being added in 2024.

Efforts are also focussed on ensuring that females have opportunities to participate in every area of the game, with increasing the number of female referees and coaches active in the county a priority, with dedicated training and support in place.

Progress is also being made in administration and governance, with more females taking roles at leagues and clubs. Hertfordshire FA has for many years had a high proportion of female staff and welcomed its first female Board and Council members in recent years.

Still Much Work To Be Done

We are aware however, that for all the growth and positive change we’ve seen in recent years we recognise the female game locally is still less than a fifth of the size of the male game, so while progress is welcome, we know there is still much work to be done to level the playing field.

Our goal is to ensure that every woman and girl in Hertfordshire who wants to be involved in football as a player, coach, official or administrator has the opportunity to be part of it and will continue to strive towards achieving this objective in the years ahead.

Today we celebrate the achievements of all those who have contributed to the development of female football in our county and ask everyone involved in the game to join us on this journey as we aim to Inspire Inclusion and deliver equal access for women and girls.