Since the beginning of 2018 there were over 500 women’s football teams across the country, with eight professional leagues and a high quality skill level.
A woman footballer has criticised the lack of funding at grass-roots level – In the 1920s the sport flourished with around 150 women’s teams in England and as of September 2014, there were 2.6 million women and girls playing football in England. Most Premier League clubs now have both men’s and women’s sides, with Manchester United the latest to launch their own female team.
But for Wigan Athletic Ladies’ star Vicky Johnson, it’s a very different story. Money is in such short supply there that she has to wash her own kit.
“Although there is a high promotion of women’s football at the top level, there is very little funding and support at grass roots level.
“Many teams that I have played against since under 8’s are now folding due to lack of coaching and facilities. Unfortunately, women’s football is still behind men’s football/rugby within towns as they still receive better funding and facilitates,” she said.
“We even have to purchase our own Wigan kit from then that isn’t at a cost price, or even reduced slightly. This applies to everyone from open age right down to the under 8’s,” she continued.
In 2016, the women’s Equality party, alongside West Ham Women’s team, called on a FA-affiliated club that run a men’s team to share their facilities equally with their women’s teams, in order to promote the women’s game.
According to the football stadia improvement fund their aim is to: “Provide money for clubs in the women’s FA national league system who want to improve their facilities for players, officials and spectators.”
However, the fund has many limits and is nowhere near the fund available to their male counterparts. The FSIF says: “Where women’s clubs share a ground with men’s clubs the maximum grant allowance/percentage will relate to the highest ground grading criteria required for that ground.”
The wide-ranging report by Fifpro, the World Players’ Union, which represents 60,000 players globally, paints a damning portrait of life for Women’s Super League players beyond the competition’s ‘big three’ clubs of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City.
The report – which surveyed 3,500 Fifpro members – reveals that only 1 per cent of players in the Super League are mothers, suggesting that clubs do not do enough to support those who have or who would like to have children.
The report finds that:
- 90 per cent of professional female players worldwide are considering ending their football careers early
- Only 9.4 per cent of female players globally are aged 29 and over, compared to 22.4 per cent of male players.
- 87 per cent of Super League players surveyed do not have a retirement fund
- 26 per cent of Super League players said their clubs do not cover their football expenses
- Just 2 per cent of all active players worldwide are mothers, while only 3 per cent of clubs have crèche facilities
- Only 1 per cent of Super League player are mothers – while the PFA was unable to supply any figure, it is believed the proportion of male players who have children is many times that.
The report continues to show the massive gender equality pay gap with 88 per cent of players in the Women’s Super League, the top tier in England, earn under £18,000 a year as well as 58 per cent of players considering quitting because they simply can’t afford it.
It’s not just the professionals who are struggling to fund their sport, the problem sinks right down to grass roots football, with women’s youth and Sunday league teams having to go to extraordinary lengths in order to fund the sport they love.
Work is being done to improve the state of affairs in the women’s game, after England’s women’s team achieved their best ever finish at the World Cup in 2015, earning a gold medal, the number of girls participating in the game has risen.
Launched in 2013, the Female football development programme, a 2 year scheme, aimed to get 40,000 women and girls aged 14+ to participate in football – a target which was met. More than £3.7m of Football Association and Sport England money was invested to the programme in 2015.
In that two-year time period 42,462 new players into football, with an additional 21,060 new players being targeted in year three.
It’s not just down to Football governing bodies to fund the women’s game, other sporting bodies are beginning to play their part in funding the sport.
Last year the Football Foundation, England’s largest sports charity, and FA initiative supported over 10,016 female footballers.
The sports charity spoke about their grassroots initiative Grow the Game which “offers grants to grassroots football clubs that wish to create new teams.”
The charity has also said that This year, they are encouraging clubs who want to start a women’s team to begin to apply for the fund.
According to their website: “Grow the Game grants help to reduce the costs associated with starting new grassroots football teams by making £1,500 available for each team that a club creates.
“Expenditure that the funding can help a club pay for includes: FA coaching courses; FA league affiliation costs; referees’ fees; first aid kits; and even football kit and equipment through a bespoke voucher”.
Once women’s football is held in the same light as men’s football that is when the growth of the game will be seen the most.
It seems as though there are clubs who value profit and business over the equality of the game, before the funding issue is resolved, the attitude towards the women’s game needs to change.
Although a lot is being done by both sporting bodies like the FA as well as other sporting charities like the football stadia improvement fund there is more work that needs to be done in order for the women’s game to reach the levels of the men’s.