Football for All and the FA's Ambitious Gameplan for Growth | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Football for All and the FA’s Ambitious Gameplan for Growth

Following the launch of the FA's "For All" campaign and their target of increasing participation in women's football, Nancy Frostick discusses how effective such plans have been in the past and if they are achievable

Women's football has once more come to the fore with a new target to increase participation amongst women and girls by 50% by 2020
Is football truly for everyone in the English system? It would seem the Football Association are trying to ensure that is the case after launching a new campaign to encourage new players to join the existing 11.8 million regular participants in England - regardless of their gender, sexuality, ability or disability, age or faith. Women's football has once more come to the fore with a new target to increase participation amongst women and girls by 50% by 2020, as FA Chief Executive Martin Glenn told the BBC this week that they had "let down" women's football both historically, when women's football was banned after great success in the First World War, and more recently. The "Gameplan for Growth" will specifically target women and girls with the aim of increasing participation and also develop the elite level of the women's game in England with a challenging goal of World Cup success in 2023. At a time of flux for the FA thanks to a vote of no confidence in the organisation from the government (a controversial issue in itself), the "For All" campaign and the “Gameplan for Growth” beg the question - is it too little to late for women's football, and are the targets too ambitious?

In the wake of the government vote, it might seem as if the FA feel the need to overcompensate and prove their abilities as a governing body - but they deserve credit where it is due for the steady progress made in women's football in the last eight years or so. Since the launch of the Women's Super League the women's game has seen a gradual rise in match attendance, as well as the boost of most clubs going either semi or fully professional and this has fed in to England's performances on the international stage. The success of the London Olympics in 2012 and England's third place finish at the World Cup in Canada in 2015 has a large part to play in this upturn, with FA backing and investment certainly adding to growth on and off the pitch. Women’s football in England is probably in the best position it ever has been thanks to a well-developed plan by the FA.

That's not to say that things are perfect or have been done the best they could have been - there's still plenty of room for improvement in the approach to women's football and Glenn's statement is certainly true. Gaps have started to emerge between the top teams and those that haven't been able to go full-time in the WSL, so long-term stability there is an issue. The historical actions and attitudes arguably mean the FA owe women's football more than it's getting in terms of funding and investment but taking a reasoned approach built on sustained growth is a priority. Better to build things gradually than go boom and bust - the NWSL and its predecessors in the USA are evidence enough of that not always working.

The new campaign, then, is about proving the FA's worth - past and present - to women's football. The “For All” promotion video featuring Casey Stoney's football story is a touching tribute to the ways that sport can help people overcome adversity in all its various forms. The video is one way in which the FA hope to inspire more women and girls to play or be involved in football regularly. The other targets from the plan such as winning the World Cup in 2023, potentially hosting the European Championships in 2021, and enhancing the profile of the national team are ambitious but attainable. It would be a fantastic breakthrough to achieve any or all of these goals and the creation of new roles such as head of women’s performance and head of women’s coaching development will certainly help. The biggest hurdle will be the short timescale on these aims, although capitalizing on the momentum that has been generated thus far seems wise. Like the launch of the WSL and the previous FA plans before it, the “For All” and “Gameplan for Growth” campaigns look overtly optimistic, but if the last five years in women’s football has taught us anything, it is that only time will tell if they will be a success.

3rd year History and English student and online editor of Redbrick Sport. Might not have the skills to pay the bills, but once played at Wembley. Usually rabbiting on about women's football. (@nancyfrostick)


20th March 2017 at 10:00 am

Last Updated

20th March 2017 at 12:14 am

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