Woodley United Ladies. Photo: Philip J.A Benton

Gameplan for Growth strategy smashes target for women’s football participation

There are now 3.4 million women and girls now actively playing football in England
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Woodley United Ladies. Photo: Philip J.A Benton

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In 2017, Baroness Sue Campbell, now Director of Women’s Football, commented “It’s one thing to write a plan – it’s another to turn it into well-executed action on the ground’ in response to the FA launching ‘Gameplan for Growth’. The intention was clear; double participation figures and create a high-performance system in women and girl’s football in 4 years and a report published this week by the FA today indicates they’ve done exactly that.

When the initiative first began there were around 6,000 affiliated teams playing across the association, as of today’s figures, there are now 9251. Figures confirm there are a staggering 3.4 million women and girls now actively playing football in England. 

Vital in growing the women’s game is introducing it at junior level, and there’s no doubt that the Wildcat Centres (more on Wildcats program here) have been a roaring success with 34,000 girls aged 5-11 now playing across well over a thousand locations. 

One of a number of new women’s teams in Berkshire this season – AFC Crowthorne Ladies

Also crucial to this growth is success on the world stage, England saw their first taste of SheBelieves victory at the beginning of 2019 when they clinched the title beating the USA, Japan and Brazil. And later that year the Lionesses stomped their way through the 2019 World Cup securing maximum points in their group stage, securing comfortable clean sheets in the round of 16, quarters and eventually meeting their match in World number one the USA, sadly the squad bowed out at this stage and it was 3rd place playoffs for England. Up against a mighty side in Sweden, a goal from Berkshire’s very own Fran Kirby just wasn’t quite enough this time, as they lost 2-1, which left them in 4th place. 

Wondering where the ladies of teams of Berkshire fit into all this? Look no further, Berkshire is lucky enough to have teams at almost every tier of the pyramid representing the county. 

Women’s Super League – Reading FC Women


FA Women’s National League (Division 1 South West) – Maidenhead United

Southern Region Women’s Football League
(Premier) – Ascot United, Newbury and Woodley United
(Division 1 South) – Tilehurst Panthers

Thames Valley Counties Women’s Football League 

(Division 1) – Caversham AFC Ladies, Eversley & California Ladies, Wargrave Ladies and Wokingham & Emmbrook Ladies
(Division 2) – Holyport Ladies and Kingsclere Ladies
(Division 3S) – Caversham AFC Women, Mortimer Ladies, Newbury Ladies Development, S4K Ladies, Thatcham Flames and Wargrave Women Reserves
(Division 3E) – AFC Crowthorne Ladies, Ascot United Ladies Reserves and Slough Town FC Ladies

(Development Division) – Thatcham Town Ladies

That’s 22 affiliated teams in total, and in the 2019/20 season (yes, that null and void one) there were 676 adult players registered across the board. 

There is no doubt the women’s game has made leaps and bounds in the last decade but there is still plenty of room for growth, as both players and spectators we can make that happen.

  • Go watch a game!
  • Follow social media updates
  • Get involved in fundraising opportunities
  • Volunteer at a club

One last thought, let’s not forget all the incredible people, more often than not volunteers, behind the scenes that help keep these players and clubs ticking over every week of the year – why not nominate them for one of Football in Berkshire’s awards here.

What do you think? 

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