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Women's football in England

UEFA Women's EURO 2022 was another landmark occasion for the host nation, where the female game continues to go from strength to strength.


High expectations

Fifty years on from their first official women's international, against Scotland, England host a final tournament likely to shatter European attendance records. The interest in women's football shines through in tickets sales as well as the rise of the Women's Super League, where three games a week are shown live on television. A series of Football Association (FA) women's football strategies have underpinned that growth, showing just how far the English game has come on and off the pitch since UEFA Women's EURO 2005, a landmark tournament but nowhere near the scale of this summer's event.

Best UEFA competition performance

England captain Carol Thomas meets her Swedish counterpart Anette Borjesson before the 1984 final
England captain Carol Thomas meets her Swedish counterpart Anette Borjesson before the 1984 finalGetty Images

Senior: UEFA Women's EURO winners (2022)
Youth: UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship winners (2009)

Role Model

Saskia Granville grew up with cerebral palsy but, a huge football fan, she played for the Brighton & Hove Disability team. She then had the chance to move into coaching by undertaking the FA's Playmaker Course. After completion, she took charge of Worthing Town's Under-10 girls' team before leading coaching sessions for girls aged 5-11.

"My confidence just keeps boosting up and up! And I want to show people with a disability that they can do it. Don't give up – keep trying and you will get there. The best thing is, the Playmaker Course seems to be just the beginning!"

Milestone moments

On the pitch… 

There have been many big moments for the English women's game in recent years, but the 70,584 fans who came to Wembley to watch Great Britain beat Brazil 1-0 in the 2012 Olympic tournament helped take the sport to a new level. England hope to be back at Wembley ten years later to the day.

… and off it 

England's success is not just getting fans into the stands. The Wildcats scheme, launched in 2017, has proved a huge hit in boosting the number of 5- to 11-year-old girls playing the game across the country, with fun sessions overseen by FA-qualified coaches and volunteers. Find out more below.

Game changer

The television audience of 11.7 million for England's 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup semi-final against the United States was confirmation of the game's popularity – not to mention the prowess of the players. The FA had high hopes when it announced the coming launch of the Super League in 2008, also introducing central contracts for England players and setting up an Elite Performance Unit, but much of what it planned to achieve has been surpassed, both on and off the pitch.

Here and now

Junior/senior: Playing perspectives

Jill Scott and Hannah Hampton
Jill Scott and Hannah HamptonUEFA

We compare and contrast the experiences of players at the opposite ends of their careers as they reflect on their journeys and what is to come at this summer’s tournament.

Goalkeeper Hannah Hampton, 21, moved to Spain when she was five years old, and her first taste of club football was with the Villarreal academy. Jill Scott, 35, is the second most-capped female England player of all time with more than 150 appearances.

Hampton: "With my very first team, I think we had about ten astroturf pitches. We had all the changing rooms, the gyms. It was basically Villarreal’s men’s training ground where I was playing and training every single week.

Scott: "For me, I think it was just a random field somewhere, to be honest, and you had to run off to the trees if you wanted the toilet!"

Junior Senior with Hannah Hampton and Jill Scott

Joining the game in England

Are you interested in playing women's football? Find out how to play where you are with the help of #WePlayStrong.

How you can play

Trailblazers exhibition

WEURO Trailblazers: England

"Trailblazers" is a unique exhibition that showcases the work of European artists given a blank canvas to celebrate women’s football. UEFA invited artists from participating nations in this summer’s tournament to create an image inspired by the game in their country. England's representative is Kelly Anna: "The inspiration of my piece was our World Cup star of 1966. It is a piece about hope and determination to keep reaching for more stars. The piece is my representation of the importance of inclusion within football - the game is for everyone. I still remember going to my first match with my Dad and brothers, sitting in the crowd and really feeling the energy of the fans. I remember how powerful it was to be a fan and how excited it made me feel."

Investing for the future

'Inspiring positive change' - The FA's women's football strategy

The FA's women's and girls' football strategy for 2020–2024 outlined eight areas of focus to fulfil its aim of inspiring positive change:

* Giving girls a fun, early introduction to the game
* Providing a vibrant, inclusive club player pathway
* Being at the global forefront of women's professional sport
* Providing a 'Blueprint for Success' for England players
* Ensuring high standards of coaching
* Providing football for fun and recreation
* Developing a diverse, well-supported and skilled workforce
* Growing the fanbase and extending engagement

Download the strategy

Women's Football Development Programme (WFDP)

Since 2010, UEFA's WFDP has provided associations with funding and tools to increase participation, improve standards and build infrastructure to help keep the female game growing. One example of a project funded by the WFDP programme in England is…

Wildcats (2016–20)

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge at a Wildcats programme
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge at a Wildcats programme Getty Images

This project aimed to grow the network of Wildcats Centres nationwide, offering young girls the chance to play football in a fun and safe environment. It also sought to train the Wildcats workforce and recognise and reward the Wildcats Centres, coaches and participants.

The number of teams involved in the programme increased from 398 in 2016 to 3,252 in 2020, while the total number of Wildcats Centres rose from 199 to 1,626 over the same period. Having become the FA's flagship girls' football participation scheme, the Wildcats programme also served as inspiration for UEFA's Playmakers initiative.