Andy Burnham giving a press conference about girls football in schools

“Football is for girls!”: Mayor calls on schools to encourage more girls into football.

  • Andy Burnham calls for Greater Manchester schools to give girls the chance to play football.
  • Karen Bardsley and Manchester FA join together to write open letter to schools.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham announced this morning that he will be joining the FA to call on schools to encourage more young females across the region to get involved in football.

The calls come off the back of England Lionesses incredible summer, where they became European champions for the first time in the nation’s history. The Lionesses wrote their own letter to the government calling for change to girl’s curriculum in schools.

Burnham said: “We need to give all girls the right to play all sports, not just football, in Greater Manchester. There is still an old mentality that certain sports are for girls, and we need to sweep that away because it’s simply not true. Football is for girls.”

Burnham applauded the work of current England Men’s manager Gareth Southgate for “creating a new feeling around the England team” which the lionesses have been able to step into.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester made a bold prediction that “a year from now, 100 percent of schools will have signed up to giving girls the chance to play football”.

Burnham was joined by former England international Karen Bardsley who echoed the thoughts of the mayor by announcing that they will be writing to schools in Greater Manchester to offer at least two hours of PE per week to girls, involving more football orientated sessions.

Bardsley, chair of the Greater Manchester Women’s Football Board, said: “There is real need to do something special in Greater Manchester and create a pilot which could work to grow the game at a domestic level and international level.”

Bardsley, who was born in the United States to English parents, touched on her own experience and the difference in playing football in the states, compared to the UK.

“The structure is different in the States, football didn’t become serious until High School when I could get my own varsity jacket and there’s some school pride. The grassroots level here gives everyone an equal playing field whereas in the US you have to pay to play and if you pay more money you can play on a better team.”

Holding the conference in MediaCityUK, Burnham was joined by representatives of Manchester FA and local school pupils who showcased their football skills on a frosty artificial surface.

Burnham rolled back the years and joined the pupils in a possession game and shooting drill. Being careful to not slip in what was sub-zero temperatures, Burnham gave the pupils a chance to showcase their talent to the national media and express their love for football.

Manchester has already started its action to develop more young female footballers with the Greater Manchester Women’s Football Board, which was set up in June 2022, ahead of the Women’s European Championships in the UK. The board is designed to develop women’s and girls’ football across grassroots and the professional level. It also plans to increase participation numbers and support established teams who are part of the FA Women’s football pyramid.

Bardsley, former Manchester City goalkeeper, touched on how important it is for young girls to have role models to look up to in the women’s game.

“I’ve been able to speak to young girls and they’ve told me that they get involved with the boys at break time and play football. It’s pretty cool as the boys now no longer feel that it’s weird that the girls want to get involved. The girls are talking about the Alessia Russo’s, Ellen White’s, Ella Toone’s of the world, who are becoming role models for these young girls.”

The announcement comes a few days before the highly anticipated Women’s Manchester derby fixture between Manchester City and Manchester United. The game has sold over 45,000 tickets ahead of the 12:30 kick off at the Etihad Stadium.

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