In her final article for Redbrick, sport online editor Nancy Frostick reflects on a year of sporting retirements and looks forward to the next generation of Redbrick writersWritten by Nancy Frostick on 19th June 2017
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
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.