Staffs women footballers have urged local schools to take a leaf out the University’s book and give a chance to the next generation of budding female football stars.
Leading figures in the Uni’s women’s football set up hope the current World Cup being staged in France will provide a boost to game in this country. But, while praising Staffordshire University for their support of female football, they believe the problems lie further down in the system.
“There needs to be more academies for young girls, more all-girls teams in primary schools and local league teams,” said Sarah Felton, captain of the Staffs Uni Women’s football team.
“If we got girls playing football from the same young ages that boys do, the girls could be just as good, if not better than the boys.”
“I think there is not enough support for girls who have the opportunity to play football at primary school level, who then want to continue with the sport through to high school and college.
“Often, girls will give up playing sport after high school because they don’t know what else is available to them.”
With 6.1 million viewers tuning in to watch the Lionesses’ 2-1 World Cup opener, it was the most watched women’s game of all time in the UK, proving that the game is capturing people’s attention.
However, captain of the Derby County Ladies foundation team and Staffs Uni student, Elanor Farthing still believes there’s a long way to go.
“When I was in year three at primary school, we played just one tournament, but after that there wasn’t a team for us. I’ve had to work harder than the men just to get the same opportunities, she said.
“It felt like a losing battle at times just to be able to play, but nothing in life comes easy. Someone’s got to struggle for things to get better. This World Cup is a steppingstone, it won’t happen overnight.”
Often the subject of women’s football is overshadowed by the fight for equality, with the wages of the Lioness counterparts, being significantly higher, due to more lucrative sponsors and endorsements.
However, Felton argues that it’s not all about the money.
“I don’t think the women should be paid the same as the men,” she said.
“I think the men should be paid the same as the women. It’s outrageous how much some of the top male players are paid.
“I think I would be disappointed in the women if they accepted the same pay. No one needs to be paid £300,000 a week to play football.
“There’s no passion in their football anymore. It’s all about money and ego.”
Though the current World Cup has met with a positive reception in the UK, Staffs journalism student Molly Hudson, who is currently covering the tournament for The Times newspaper, believes the governing body and organisers could be doing more to promote the women’s game.
“The French haven’t taken the tournament to heart in some of the bigger cities like Paris and Nice. There’s not a huge amount of advertising,” she said.
“You wouldn’t really know you were in a host city of a major tournament. The advertising is a lot better in the smaller cities, but that’s because they need the tourism.
“I do feel that France has slightly missed a bit of an opportunity to promote the game further.”
Whilst the advertising of the game might not have been up too much, Hudson agrees with our female footballers that more needs to be done to encourage a younger generation of female footballers.
“Until I came to University, I’d never played football before. At school it wasn’t an option for women to play,” she said.
“I think Staffs Uni has been really open to women’s football, it’s not an extra, it’s just an option from the vast range of sports teams that you can choose. I think the University has been very successful in that way.”
“This world cup has highlighted progress; the quality of the football is better than it has ever been and there’s a lot more competition around this time.”