When Manchester City’s Chloe Kelly scored in the 110th minute it was about winning Euro 2022 and beating Germany in the final. However, it meant so much more than just winning a tournament. On 13 July 2023, the UK Government released a report on the state of women’s football, with an aim to improve the standard and increase professionalisation.
The Government worked with TV presenter and former footballer, Karen Carney MBE, to write and research the report. England’s success in Euro 2022 and the increased interest and awareness that resulted from this was directly mentioned in the report as instrumental in its development. Chloe Kelly’s goal contributed to more than winning a tournament; it promoted a shift in the perception of women’s football and sport.
The report is thorough in its analysis of women’s football. Specifically, it assesses the state of the women’s game currently, its limitations and benefits and explores what the Government, civil society and the private sector need to do to improve the game and ensure that women’s football is not an afterthought.
Here are the key points from the report’s recommendations:
1) Better standards for the women’s game
This involves improving youth recruitment and development in women’s football, promoting professionalisation and the FA delegating control over the top two women’s divisions to a new company, NewCo, who will strive for excellent standards.
2) Furthering equality and diversity
The report recommends that the FA challenges the lack of diversity in women’s football. Moreover, the Government should deliver on commitment for equal access to football in schools and those involved in grassroots football should accommodate women and girls.
3) Making the sport more accessible
This means ensuring that Clubs value and appreciate their fans, making women’s football more accessible on TV by creating a dedicated slot for matches.
Nevertheless, this report is not legislation; it still requires the Government to act and produce their own legislation. Immediately after the review was released, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Lucy Frazer MP released a written statement to Hansard, which briefly detailed the Government’s response. In this statement, Frazer welcomed the review and announced a full response would come in the Autumn.
While the Government’s statement illustrates that there is still work to do to promote women’s football, the review raises important points. As mentioned prior, it has contributed to an overall attitude shift about women’s football. On a separate note, the review and the process behind it reveals the potential extra parliamentary nature of policy development. The process for this review did not start in a London-based policy community, in a Think Tank report or in Parliament, but in football stadiums across England. It was a culmination of growing attendances in women’s football and thereby, growing awareness and interest.
Even if nothing has changed in law formally, maybe the publication exemplifies that everyday actions, such as attending a women’s football match, can be a stimulant for change. In this regard, maybe not all policy needs to start in Westminster.
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