The GFC Community Trust is celebrating the successes of the Female Football Development SchemeGillingham Community Trust is celebrating the success of an innovative new scheme that has seen 15,000 more women and girls playing football
The Female Football Development Scheme (FFD) is run by 56 clubs including Gillingham FC through The Football League Trust.
By focusing on fun and fitness rather than competition and performance FFD has brought the benefits of sport to women and girls who previously might not have considered playing football. The relaxed, social atmosphere has also encouraged players back to the sport who had previously left the game because they didn’t enjoy the overly competitive nature of the sport.
“The variety in the drills gave us the opportunity to understand the best ways to apply skills to a game situation. It was very enjoyable, and drills and games were adapted to suit the energy that everyone had.” Mel 17, attendee of FFD session Fort Pitt Grammar School.
Since the two-year scheme was launched in October 2013, over 15,000 females between the ages of 14 and 25 have played football in sessions which run for 30 weeks of the year.
The Female Football Development scheme is run by the Football League clubs as part of the FA Women’s and Girls’ Programme, which is funded by the National Lottery from Sport England.
The Gillingham Community Trust have supported this scheme by delivering football sessions to a variety of girls that show an interest in being involved in the sport.
We emphasise the fun, friends and fitness ethos of the programme to encourage new girls to start playing football. We have currently seen 135 girls in eight sessions over the first 10 weeks with the second block of sessions just getting started.
Georgia Bowie, Female Football Development Officer, said: "The sessions have varied from complete beginners, girls lacking confidence to play in a competitive team, to girls coming back from an injury.
"The programme has enabled me to have a more relaxed approach to coaching and really get to know the girls taking part so I could make the sessions more personal to them, this has enabled me to see a steady progression in the girls footballing ability and their confidence on and off the pitch.”
Mike Evans, general manager of the Football League Trust, said: “Football clubs are at the heart of their communities and have an emotional pull that enables them to reach a vast amount of people.
"Our network of league clubs means we can access and influence communities all around the country and we aim to use this power to make a positive difference to people’s lives. This, as well as developing a strong partnership with the County FAs, has enabled us to provide ‘fun and fitness’ to close to 15,000 women and girls in the first year of the programme.”
The programme is part of the FA’s wider strategy on growing participation figures for women’s football and its vision to be the second largest team sport after men’s football by 2018.
The initiative was created when The FA, Sport England, the Premier League and the Football League Trust joined forces to provide new grassroots football sessions. The target is that by August 2015, 40,000 females will have participated in football through the scheme.
It is the first time all four bodies have worked together on a project such as this.
Kelly Simmons, FA director of national game and women’s football, said: “Working alongside our partner organisations to deliver such excellent results demonstrates just what potential there is for women’s football in this country, at both grassroots and elite levels.
"One of our biggest challenges, apart from attracting new players, is retention, so programmes like this which run for long periods of time, will certainly help us tackle that and help women’s football to become the second most-played sport in the country.”
Jennie Price, Sport England Chief Executive, said: “It is great to see so many women and girls taking up the opportunity to play football thanks to this programme.
“Getting women and girls active is really important to us. We know women play less sport than men but most would like to do more. In fact, almost 120,000 women tell us that they want to play football. But the opportunities have to be right for those women to turn ambition into a reality.”
Minister for Sport Helen Grant said: “It’s great news that more girls and women are getting into football at a time when so much effort is going in to strengthen and raise the profile of women’s sport generally.”
For more information about the programmes, please visit click here.