A landmark female football participation programme has secured an additional year’s funding after it exceeded its target player numbers.
More than £3,700,000 of joint FA and Sport England investment will be allocated to the programme by July 2016.
The two-year scheme was launched in 2013 and aimed to get 40,000 women and girls aged 14 and over to start, and continue, playing football.
The initiative has been spearheaded by The FA, Sport England, Premier League and Football League Trust and is the first time that all four organisations have worked on a project of this kind. Sessions have been delivered through the Premier League and Football League member clubs across the country.
In the two years, the programme has attracted 42,462 new players into football, with an additional 21,060 new players targeted in year three.
“Growing the numbers of women and girls playing football is one of our key priorities”
Kelly Simmons FA director of women's football
The funding will be marked at the SSE Women’s FA Cup Final on Saturday 1 August where Sports Minister Tracey Crouch joined FA Chairman Greg Dyke, Chelsea head of communications and community affairs Emma Wilkinson, Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey and Sport England's director of sport Phil Smith, along with two youth players from the programme will take part in a photoshoot on the Wembley pitch at half time.
It is hoped that the programme will continue to drive participation for women’s and girls’ football and enable the sport to become the second largest team sport in the country behind men’s football, a key objective of The FA’s Game Changer strategy, a five-year plan launched in October 2012.
Kelly Simmons, FA football participation and development director, said: “Growing the numbers of women and girls playing football is one of our key priorities at The FA and this programme is making a significant impact on these numbers.
“One of the biggest challenges we face with teenage girls and young women is not just getting them to play, but keeping them playing. This initiative has addressed this and it’s great to see so many young women playing regularly as a result.
“This is an excellent example of partners working together to deliver an innovative and effective programme, while the development of the women’s game also becoming an important part of professional clubs’ plans.”
Sport England director of sport Phil Smith said: "Today we are celebrating the national pinnacle of women’s football, so it’s fitting to be able to announce additional funding for this fantastic grassroots programme.
"Through it, we want more women and girls across England to be able to play a part in a sport that so many know and love.
"It’s not just about going out on the pitch once and having a kickabout. We want them to have a quality experience so that they can continue to enjoy football for as long as they want to. That is why this partnership is so important.
"As the final whistle blows, there will be women and girls wanting to get involved. This programme gives them that opportunity."
The funding will be celebrated with an FA Junior Fanzone with Continental Tyres at Powerleague Wembley before the game. Players that have participated in the programme will take part in a mini tournament before watching the Cup Final.
Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore added: “This event is one part of the Premier League Girls' Football Programme which provides a variety of opportunities for girls to get involved in community sport initiatives run by our clubs.
“In the last year alone this programme has resulted in a 47 per cent increase in the number of girls taking part in Premier League club community projects, and the new funding will help our clubs further grow sports participation among women and girls.”
Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey said: “The Football League Trust’s Female Football Development Programme has a strong emphasis on ‘fun’, ‘friends’ and ‘fitness’ which has proved very successful in getting new players involved in the women’s game.
“With strong foundations built by the Football League Trust over the last two years, this expansion of the Female Development Programme will see even more women and girls benefitting from football via our league club network.”