House View Women's Word Cup Women's Football

The House View – To grow, girls’ football needs more than the Women’s World Cup

July 26, 2023

It’s a shame about the awkward time difference for European viewers because the Women’s World Cup would be drawing the biggest TV audiences of the year in many countries. But even if everyone was watching the games on TV, the impact on ordinary girls playing the game every day might not amount to much. 

A comparison with recently ended Wimbledon, the biggest annual women’s event, is timely. 

In the UK we have the Wimbledon phenomenon in participation. During the fortnight men and women, boys and girls are suddenly out of the tennis court knocking a ball around, many of them people who don’t often play tennis.

The true success of the Women’s World Cup will be shown when it has a similar encouraging effect on the public’s sporting behaviour, when you see girls out in the park kicking a football around the same way that boys do with their jumpers for goalposts. 

You don‘t see girls doing that very much yet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of teenage girls playing football with each other in a park near me.

Whose fault is that? Whose responsibility is it to get girls playing for fun? It not FIFA’s. It’s not really the FA’s either.

In fact there is a governance gap when it comes to casual participation and it’s not an easy one to close. 

When sporting bodies speak of ‘participation’ and ‘grassroots’ sport what they’re usually talking about is organised sport, formal competition and instruction with referees and accredited coaches and the like. This is basically sport that requires kids to affiliate to an NGB to take part in. In a nutshell, it’s what parents of junior footballers have to pay the FA or recognised clubs for.

The comparison with tennis is again apt.

The casual players crowding courts during Wimbledon don’t have to affiliate to the LTA to enjoy playing although the places where they play are officially homologated as tennis courts. You can’t play that sport otherwise.

But you can play football. Kicking a ball in the park doesn’t require a proper pitch. And I dare say most of boys’ football is played informally in parks or in the street or on the beach.

If girls’ football is really going to grow they need to be encouraged to get together with their friends and play informally in the same way just for fun. That’s what sport is about and it’s where future stars begin.

Every morning the parks of London are full of women and girls who are out for a run. They don’t need to join anything, they don’t need to pay anything to some official body. They simply get out to enjoy running and staying fit. 

I’m not going to get into how important this activity is for reducing the long-term burden on the health system. If I didn’t know better I’d say it’s up to the government to get more girls playing football to help the NHS.

I’d venture to say the biggest encouragement ever given to running for fun was Nike’s Just Do It slogan.

Girls’ football could use a similar push to encourage everyday fun participation.

Just Kick It.

Never mind that it might sound like an anti-addiction campaign. Imagine if Adidas were to go there. 

The ensuing fireworks would be as entertaining as any World Cup final.

By Jay Stuart, Content Director for iSportConnect

House View Women's Word Cup Women's Football