Lionesses Call On Government to Offer Equal Access to Football For All Girls
Just days after the Lionesses' historic win at the Euros, the team are setting their sights on their next big opponents: the government. The squad have penned a powerful letter calling on those in power to give equal access to football in PE for girls and boys. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, you might be surprised to hear that currently only 44 percent of secondary schools offer equal access for football in PE lessons. In a powerful joint letter to the two remaining Tory leadership candidates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, the Euro champions declared: "We see this as only the beginning."
After achieving record-breaking attendance figures for any Euros match (men or women) and winning England its first-ever major trophy in women's football, there's no doubt this team have inspired the next generation to take up the sport. Grassroots clubs across the country are already overwhelmed with requests from girls who want to join, and Lioness Beth Mead has said she saw the number of applicants to join her former coach's academy double overnight.
While this is all positive, systemic change is required to keep this momentum going. The letter, which was posted on Twitter on 3 Aug., reads: "We want real change in this country and we are asking you, if you were to become Prime Minister on 5 September, to help us achieve that change. We want every young girl in the nation to be able to play football at school."
"We see this as only the beginning."
An open letter from our #Lionesses... pic.twitter.com/Ty9kA7zgGa
- Lionesses (@Lionesses) August 3, 2022
Accessibility, discrimination, and lack of funding are the main reasons women's football is historically not as revered as men's football. For most of the Lionesses, that meant they needed to "travel across the country" and make their "own teams" in order to play. At the moment, just 63 percent of girls have access to football during PE lessons.
A viral tweet from 2 Aug., for example, showed a young vice captain Ellen White on the front page of The Bucks Herald newspaper in 1998. White made the news because she had been banned from playing football for boy's teams in her local area, despite the fact she was the captain of Arsenal girls under-11s. The headline read: "Soccer girl banned by league for boys: Ellen is only nine and can't fathom why she can't play football." The situation for young girls is the same today, and this is the kind of discrimination the Lionesses are fighting against. They wrote: "We have made incredible strides in the women's game, but this generation of school girls deserve more. They deserve to play football in PE lessons and they deserve to believe they can one day play for England. We want their dreams to also come true."
Left: Ellen White (1998)
Right: Ellen White (2022)
Never give up. #Lionesses pic.twitter.com/vdxXMEGEr9
- Angry People in Local Newspapers (@angrypiln) August 2, 2022
The pioneering sportswomen are calling on the government to invest in the sport through schools. "We ask you and your government to ensure that all girls have access to a minimum of two hours a week PE," the letter continues. "Not only should we be offering football to all girls, we also need to invest in and support female PE teachers too. Their role is crucial and we need to give them the resources to provide girls' football sessions. They are key role models from which so many young girls can flourish."
Signed by all 23 players of the senior England Women's Euro squad, the letter packs a punch. Both Sunak and Truss have shown their support for the Lionesses during the tournament, and Truss was actually present at the Wembley final alongside Nadine Dorries. Let's see if these football fans can walk the walk, rather than just talking the talk.