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Boosting women's football participation across the member associations

UEFA is on the road, working with national associations across Europe to raise the profile of women's football and increase participation.

Northern Ireland hosted the first Together #WePlayStrong workshop
Northern Ireland hosted the first Together #WePlayStrong workshop ©Press Eye (Belfast)

As part of its preparations to launch a five-year campaign to make women's football the number one participation sport in Europe, UEFA is on the road, working with national associations across the continent in a series of special workshops.

UEFA’s women’s football workshop series kicked off in Northern Ireland, followed by events in England, Germany, Netherlands, France, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Wales.

The Together #WePlayStrong campaign will be officially launched on 1 June before the UEFA Women’s Champions League final in Cardiff. The campaign is underpinned by research that will help all those involved at all levels of women's football to increase participation, raise the game's profile and improve access for coaches, teams and players.

Starting in Northern Ireland
As hosts of this year's European Women's Under-19 Championship final round, the Irish Football Association in Northern Ireland, which is also launching a drive to recruit women football leaders, is taking significant steps to boost participation and address inequalities in women's football.

At the first of the special workshops, UEFA delivered advice to delegates from the Irish Football Association on how to take advantage of marketing opportunities and encourage engagement on the ground and through social media, as well as how to maximise sponsorship. Stakeholders from women's football at all levels, from the grassroots to the elite, shared experiences, discussed barriers to access and worked together to find solutions.

Gail Redmond, women’s domestic manager at the Irish FA, said: “We were delighted to be the first country to pilot the Together #WePlayStrong workshop and we believe this initiative will be key in helping us to reach our goal of making football the number one sport for women and girls in our country.

“We are proud of our close relationship with UEFA and are excited about the growth prospects for women’s and girls’ football over the next five years. We want to increase participation at all levels and we plan to energise clubs to build capacity by prioritising club development.

“We found the presentations to our staff informative and it was helpful to offer stakeholders in Northern Ireland an opportunity to voice their views on how to improve and develop the game here."

Guy-Laurent Epstein, UEFA’s director of marketing, applauded Northern Ireland for the enthusiasm and commitment shown by those working in women's football, particularly the many volunteers. "There is a great appetite to develop women's football in Northern Ireland, and it comes at a time when football has enjoyed good levels of investment," he said.

"The newly opened National Football Stadium at Windsor Park is a beautiful stadium, and the success enjoyed at EURO 2016 has inspired many within football to help children and young people, including girls, to take up the game.

"We recognise that putting football at the forefront for women across Europe is a big challenge, but we feel very confident we are on the right track. We have developed a toolkit for all national associations to tailor to their needs, and with UEFA's support it will help to make football the number one sport played by women in Europe."

This article originally appeared in UEFA Direct No167