The UK government will provide a £600 million package to create equal school opportunities for girls, the English Football Association (FA) announced on Wednesday.
The announcement, which coincided with International Women’s Day, was the result of an open letter written to the government by Sarina Wiegman’s England squad which asked for equal sporting access for young girls in schools.
Schools in England will be required to offer equal sporting access, and deliver a minimum of two hours of physical education per week.
Leah Williamson, captain of England’s Euro 2022-winning side, said it is the team’s “responsibility to open the doors” for girls from a young age to be introduced to sport and have the same opportunities as boys.
“The success of the summer has inspired so many young girls to pursue their passion for football,” Williamson said. “We see it as our responsibility to open the doors for them to do so and this announcement makes that possible. This is the legacy that we want to live much longer than us as a team.”
An announcement that will change women’s football in England forever, and the start of something truly special. 👏
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) March 8, 2023
According to the FA, 67% of all schools and 41% of secondary schools offer equal football opportunities in PE lessons, and only 46% of schools provide the same extracurricular opportunities as boys.
The government funding will go into both school sport and extracurricular activities. An added £57m will go to open sport facilities outside of school hours and £22m will be made available to the School Games Organisers network.
Williamson’s England and Arsenal teammate Lotte Wubben-Moy said: “By making football more accessible to millions of girls across the nation, we have opened a crucial door for the growth of women’s football and women’s sport as a whole. I am proud to be part of something that will live on for generations to come.”
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said that England’s Euros win “can now live on with a legacy,” adding that the government plans have “the ability to change the future of women’s football.”
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Last year the Lionesses’ victory changed the game. Young girls know when they take to the pitch that football is for them and, thanks to the Lionesses, they too could be a part of the next generation to bring it home for their country. We want schools to build on this legacy.”