The Football Association of Wales (FAW) launched its strategy for women's football at Cardiff City Stadium last week, with a plan and a vision for the future of the female game in the principality.
Continuing a ten-year vision funded with backing from UEFA's women's football development programme (WFDP), the launch coincided with the start of Wales's FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying campaign, Belarus beaten 1-0 in Cardiff by Helen Ward (formerly Lander)'s 30th international goal on her 50th appearance. Sport Wales's newly appointed chief executive Sarah Powell headed a top table of representatives from the women's game who discussed and debated the content of the strategy document with the assembled media, before enjoying a welcome national-team victory.
"The Football Association of Wales and the Welsh Football Trust have carried out some excellent work over the last five or six years and I welcome this strategy," Powell said at the launch. "The important thing now is to deliver on this new strategy and put it into action."
A key word throughout the publication is 'increase' – used mainly in terms of profile, participation and investment – with the whole project based upon increasing the overall scale of Welsh women's football. In August the FAW successfully hosted the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship, the first final tournament held in Wales. In the same month Trish Turner became the first woman appointed onto the FAW council since the association's formation in 1876. One of the aims of the strategy is to raise the female influence in the governance of Welsh football.
Although international football headlined the launch, the grassroots feature heavily in the long-term plan. From junior and youth participation to refereeing and coaching, there are detailed targets that the FAW is committed to reaching as part of its ten-year vision for the women's game. "There is now a clear pathway for female referees to achieve international status," said young referee Charlotte Carpenter. "Previously this was through the men's game, but now we have realistic ambitions to become FIFA referees."
The Welsh Premier Women's League kicked off its second season this month, and the national league has a pivotal part to play in the strategy, with domestic licensing structures for clubs to be established to ensure the competition has an active role in the pathway structure for players that the document describes. By 2022, the FAW hopes to have 20,000 affiliated female players, more than double the current amount. Likewise, a hike in female referee numbers to 200 from the current 14 shows the scale of the task.
The FAW's vision is categorised into five central objectives: governance, participation, personnel, performance and competition. What makes the challenge especially exciting is that the strategy is being implemented at a time of unprecedented interest in the women's game. On the night, Ward's goal may have done more for the immediate positivity of the Welsh public than the published blueprint – but achieving success and progress both on and off the field will be essential for the brighter future clearly envisioned in the strategy document.
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