Dads urged to support The FA's We Can Play campaign

Friday 19 Jun 2015
Fathers urged to support the We Can Play campaign
With girls set to spoil their dads on Father’s Day this Sunday, new research from The FA revealed that dads can do more when it comes to encouraging their daughters to play football.

Of the sports dads would encourage a daughter aged seven to 11 to play, football came seventh. Top of the list came swimming (59 per cent), athletics (44 per cent) and gymnastics (41 per cent).

Top ten sports dads want to see their daughters play

1. Swimming 59%, 2. Athletics 44%, 3. Gymnastics 41%, 4. Tennis 34%, 5. Netball 25%, 6. Martial arts 24%, 7. Football 19%, 8. Figure skating 8%, 9. Rounders 7%, 10. Golf 7%

The FIFA Women’s World Cup is gaining huge attention and people like former England captain David Beckham are keen for their daughters to get involved with the beautiful game. So it was perhaps surprising that it also ranked lower than tennis (34 per cent), netball (25 per cent) and martial arts (24 per cent).

Unsurprisingly, however, when it comes to the sports dads would encourage their sons to play, football comes a clear top, with 69 per cent - making them three times as likely to encourage their son to play football over their daughter. 

It was well ahead of any other sport, with swimming (36 per cent) and athletics (32 per cent) being the second and third most popular options.

The research was undertaken by The FA following the launch of its new 'We Can Play' initiative to encourage more girls to play football. The campaign is aiming to highlight the barriers that girls face when it comes to playing football - including the lack of support of their parents.

Rachel Yankey, who appeared for England, Team GB and Arsenal Ladies, said: “For young girls, the support and encouragement of their dads - as well as mums and any other family member - can play a crucial role in them wanting to play and enjoy football.


The England Women's side are in Canada competing for the 2015 World Cup

“When I’m coaching children it’s always upsetting to hear girls saying they’ve been told by an adult that football isn’t a suitable game for them to play. 

"The women’s game has come a long way in recent years but now is the time that we need to start to remove the barriers that girls face in wanting to enjoy a sport that brings so much joy to so many people.”

The research also highlighted a number of reasons why dads believe football to be an unsuitable sport for girls. 

Top of the list was a belief that other sports are better suited to their daughters (25 per cent), many thinking that girls would prefer to play other sports (24 per cent) and football being a man's game (22 per cent).

Worryingly, a number of negative perceptions were also apparent - 16 per cent believed football is unladylike, 14 per cent were concerned that other people would see their daughter as ‘butch’ if she played football and 13 per cent stated a belief that women are not built to play football.

Reasons dads consider football to be unsuitable for girls

1. Other sports more suitable 25%
2. Think girls prefer other sports 24%
3. Football is a mans’ game 22%
4. Quality of women’s football 19%
5. Thinking girls are interested 19%
6. Concerns girls could get injured 17% 7. It’s unladylike 16%

Dads - as well as mums and other family members - are being urged to show their support for girls playing football by registering a commitment to encourage their daughter to play at to the petition.

The FA will be providing the latest information and opportunities for girls to play football with 'We Can Play' aiming to canvas the support of 100,000 girls and parents as part of its drive to boost participation. 

The campaign comes during a hugely important year for women’s football with the World Cup being followed by The SSE Women’s FA Cup Final, between Notts County Ladies and Chelsea Ladies on Saturday 1 August, being staged at Wembley Stadium for the first time in history.

Since The FA assumed control of the women’s game 22 years ago the popularity of the sport has grown exponentially. 

At the time, there were just 80 registered girls’ teams, now 2.89 million women and girls now play football on a regular basis with over 5,000 girls’ teams. 

Already the biggest female team sport, The FA is aiming for women’s football to become the second biggest participation sport in England, behind men’s football, by 2018.

More information on 'We Can Play' can be found by visiting

The FA used the independent online market research company FlyResearch, who surveyed 1,000 dads between Friday 12 and Monday 15 June 2015. Its researchers are members of the MRS, PRCA, BPC and Esomar, and abide by their guidelines.

By FA Staff