England and Manchester City goalkeeper Karen Bardsley is excited by the fact women and girls can now consider football to be a viable career option.
The FA WSL was launched in 2011 as the first semi-professional women’s league in the country and it has grown from an eight-team competition to 20 teams battling it out across two divisions.
A number of WSL clubs have evolved over the last seven years and are now in a position to offer players, such as Bardsley, full-time contracts.
And, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, the 33-year-old said: “For girls coming into the game it’s really important that they realise that there is a potential career and a living to be made playing women’s football.
“It’s no longer just a hobby where, when you get to the age of 14 or 15, you just kind of lose interest because there’s no future in it. If you want one you can make one.
“Hopefully it will affect the number of girls participating early on but also increase the numbers that stick with it as they grow up and perceptions of the general population will change.”
She continued: “I think what’s really exciting about the women’s game at the moment is the professional interest from clubs.
“The technical ability and tactical understanding is going to improve massively, which is going to improve the game as a whole.”
Bardsley has been at the forefront of helping to change perceptions of the women’s game in this country.
She is No1 for both club and country and played a key part in Man City winning every domestic trophy over the last four years.
Bardsley was also instrumental in England’s third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup.
And she is proud to be surrounded by a group of talented players that people look up to.
Bardsley added: “Young boys are now more comfortable with strong female athletes being around.
“Everyone has a mother, sister, daughter or girlfriend in their lives, but it’s about recognising the importance of them having a right to opportunities as well.
“Women can aspire to work in football in any capacity they want.”
Bardsley and her England team-mates will resume their hitherto flawless World Cup qualifying with a match against Wales in Southampton on Friday 6 April.
Tickets are already on sale, priced £1 for children and £10 for adults.
Tickets can be purchased at TheFA.com/Tickets or by calling 02381 780 780.