Thousands of women and girls across England are set to benefit from a substantial £30 million cash injection from the Government and FA to turbocharge the development opportunities for the next generation of Lionesses.
Following their triumph at UEFA EURO 2022 and their run to the final of FIFA World Cup 2023, the Government has announced an additional £30 million that will build approximately 30 new state-of-the-art 3G pitches and accompanying facilities. These sites will be designed to prioritise women’s and girls’ teams across England. They will be delivered by the Government, the Premier League, and the Football Foundation.
Reserved peak-time slots, women and girls only evenings and priority booking for women’s and girls’ teams will be introduced at every one of these sites to drive up participation and support the demand to play whatever the motivation. The facilities will provide dedicated female changing rooms, shower facilities and accessible toilets.
The Government is providing £25 million funding, with the FA contributing £5 million, to further cement the Lionesses and Government’s shared target of inspiring more women and girls to get into sport and physical activity. The Government recently published its new sport strategy which set out its ambitious aim to get 2.5 million more adults and one million more children active by 2030. Former Lioness Jill Scott sits on the National Physical Activity Taskforce to advise the Government on how to achieve this ambition.
The Culture Secretary made the special announcement to the Lionesses squad in person following a training session at St George's Park, the home to England’s national football teams. It comes ahead of the team’s crucial UEFA Women’s Nations League match against the Netherlands at Wembley Stadium on Friday 1 December.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “The Lionesses display incredible talent and have achieved highly prized success. Their EUROs victory gripped the nation, their success getting through to the World Cup final lifted the national mood.
“During the World Cup, I said that we would do everything possible to support women and girls’ football so we can watch our Lionesses roar on the world stage for generations to come. Today, along with the FA I am launching a £30 million fund to make sure the next generation of girls have equal opportunities to get into sport.
“Building on our unprecedented support for grassroots facilities, this is just the latest move in our commitment to invest in women and girls’ grassroots sport facilities, and ensure the squad’s legacy lives long into the future.”
Today’s funding uplift comes on top of the Government’s existing investment of more than £400 million in grassroots sports across the UK. Alongside investments in park tennis courts and swimming pools, the multi-sport grassroots facilities programme - which has so far delivered upgrades to 2,200 different facilities - requires 40 per cent of funding goes to supporting participation by under-represented groups, such as women and girls and those with disabilities.
The new Lionesses Futures Fund builds upon that commitment, with the Football Foundation building on its existing pipeline in 2024/25 to invest in 30 new state-of-the art artificial grass pitches.
FA CEO Mark Bullingham said: “We are delighted to work alongside DCMS to commit this funding to the Football Foundation as it will make a tangible difference to women’s and girls’ football. The biggest obstacle to participation is access to pitches and this investment will provide high quality facilities in communities across the country that need them the most.
“This funding will only be made available to facilities with women’s and girls’ football provision at their core. The local pitch is where it all starts and we hope this will help women and girls from all communities and of all ages to play the sport. For some a game of football will be simply a source of happiness and health, for others it might be a competitive challenge and for a few it will be the start of a journey to the top of the game. Whatever the motivation these facilities are designed to support the players.
“The Lionesses were crucial to this funding and it again showcases the impact they have on our country. Their performances on the pitch have driven societal change and equal opportunities, and this is another tangible example of the legacy they continue to create. We’re proud to work alongside them and are grateful for everything they continue to do.”
England’s FIFA World Cup 2023 captain Millie Bright said: “We’re proud to have been able to give the nation a lot to cheer in the last 18 months through what we’ve achieved on the pitch but we’ve been clear we want to drive change off the pitch too.
“One of our collective biggest motivations and core values is for females across the country to have equal opportunity. We are really pleased to see the commitment towards this funding and the promise that this will be prioritised for the growth of women’s and girls’ football so whatever the motivation to play, there is a safe and accessible area for females to go to.”
Robert Sullivan, CEO of the Football Foundation said: “Thanks to the ‘Lionesses Futures Fund’ our ambition to deliver more facilities that prioritise access for women and girls to play football has been accelerated. This new fund is an exciting next step in our determination to support the rapid growth of the women and girls’ game.
“Over 8,500 women and girls’ football teams are playing at sites that have received funding from the Football Foundation, whether that be for new goalposts, improved grass pitches or brand-new changing pavilions and 3G pitches. From the roots up we want to deliver better pitches ensuring healthier lives and stronger communities. Thanks to the funding of the Government, the Premier League and the FA we will ensure every community has a great place to play.”
Following the Lionesses winning the UEFA EURO 2022 tournament, the Government, Premier League and the FA announced they would honour their achievement by naming 23 grassroots facilities delivered by the Football Foundation across the country after the entire Lioness squad. Former Lioness Jill Scott and current squad members Ella Toone and Rachel Daly have so far had sites named in their honour in Newcastle, Wigan and Harrogate.
The move was then followed up by a commitment from the Prime Minister to respond to the Lionesses' call for equal access to football in schools for boys and girls. The Government responded to these calls and continues to make progress on achieving its commitment to equal access to PE and sport for girls in schools, supported by £600 million through the PE and School Sports Premium.
In 2022, the Government commissioned former Lioness Karen Carney MBE to conduct a major review on the future of the domestic women’s game. Her Review delivered a series of recommendations on the route to lift minimum standards and deliver bold and sustainable growth at elite and grassroots levels. The Government is due to publish its official response in the coming weeks.