Sports Direct and Women In Sport Identify a lack of football opportunities for girls in new study

A new survey conducted by the charity Women in Sport, supported by Sports Direct, has revealed that despite the seismic movement in women’s football this summer, the majority (67%) of young women aged 13-24 feel that a lack of opportunities and encouragement creates a barrier to their participation in sport more regularly.

Whilst many positive steps have been taken to grow the women’s game, the Women in Sport study identified trends around young girls seeing a lack of support with women’s football, with 52% of girls calling for increased support and investment at more primary levels and 36% of girls believing that women who get to the top don’t earn enough money to live off.

The legacy of the Euros does seem to be one of renewed hope, though, with there being a dramatic increase in the number of ‘sporty’ girls who are dreaming about reaching the top in sport after being inspired by the historic Lionesses’ win. Results showed that nearly 70% of girls who love playing sport dream of reaching the top, almost levelling with sporty boys at 75%. Interestingly, attitudes are beginning to shift in teenage boys, too, with many starting to recognise the injustice within sport and are keen to see women’s sport flourish. 2 in 5 boys (42%) want to see women’s sport given more support, an increase of 10% compared with two years ago.

The need for further development within the girls’ game is clearly evident though, particularly with so many girls motivated by the Lionesses’ success and looking for opportunities to play. Sports Direct is doing their part in pushing forward the women’s game with the Equal Play initiative, which seeks to address gender inequality in sport by combating issues in three key areas, including: opportunity, visibility and investment.

Fara Williams, ambassador for Sports Direct, said: “It’s great to see that the legacy of women’s football this year is one of hope, with more sporty girls getting involved and attitudes changing among boys, but there’s still a long way to go in growing the game. We now need to provide the encouragement and support for girls to progress – and campaigns like Equal Play ensure that girls have the opportunities to lace up their boots and get involved.”

Beckie Stanion, Chief Marketing Officer at Sports Direct, commented: “Working with Women in Sport to analyse the current state of grassroots girls’ sport in the UK has demonstrated just how many girls still see the playing field as uneven. With Equal Play, we’re hoping to inspire the next generation of female ballers by creating a level playing field between men’s and women’s sport.”

Women in Sport CEO Stephanie Hilborne OBE added: “The Lionesses success was a unifying moment for the country and it is great to have data to show the positive impact the growing profile of women’s sport has had on the children and young people who watched. Both boys and girls have been inspired by the passion, talent and positive team dynamic on display but the biggest impact has been on sporty girls and young women. Suddenly girls who love sport and play a lot of it, can dream in the way boys have always been able to. It is fantastic to see this and to find out that many more boys now recognise the injustice of treating women as second-class citizens in sport.”

Sports Direct is also the proud sponsor of several women’s teams, including Hibernian LFC and Forest Green Rovers Women.

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