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Republic of Ireland: Club Mark Programme helping development of women's game

More clubs and leagues around the country are now catering for female players, which has led to significant growth in participation numbers as the appetite for women’s football continues to grow.

Callan United Club, in Kilkenny, recipients of the FAI Club Mark award.
Callan United Club, in Kilkenny, recipients of the FAI Club Mark award. SPORTSFILE

The Football Association of Ireland’s (FAI) Club Mark Programme has played a part in assisting clubs, with 22 clubs starting a women’s section since joining the programme and another 18 growing their number of women’s teams and volunteers. Overall, there are 488 clubs registered with the Club Mark Programme, which helps to improve club structures both on and off the pitch. Clubs have increased their volunteer teams, retained both playing and non-playing members, enhanced their facilities and been successful in applying for various grants and initiatives by proving that governance and operating structures off the pitch are of a good standard.

The Club Mark Programme starts with an entry level award, after which clubs can progress to the one star award. A new two star award is currently being prepared to pilot with clubs before rolling it out nationwide.

Supporting clubs

The programme aims to support clubs in every area, and one of the main issues that clubs have been experiencing is that of setting up the right structures for women’s football. Galway Bohemians, based in Knocknacarra, County Galway, were one such club until they signed up for the programme and worked closely with FAI development officer Emer Flately. Now, Galway Bohemians are thriving, with more girls playing and more coaches getting involved to help out. And this kind of development is being replicated at clubs all around the country.

Barry McGann, FAI club development programme coordinator, said: “The FAI Club Mark Programme has provided a support network to grassroots clubs to help them implement best practice in the governance, management and administration of their club. One of the areas that has been noticeably affected by this is women’s and girls’ football. Some clubs simply did not know where to start in creating the structures required to introduce girls’ football, but with the assistance of the Club Mark Programme and guidance from FAI development officers, they have made significant strides in this area. The development of football for women and girls is massively important to the association, which is why it is a key pillar of the 2022–25 strategy.”

This article originally appeared in UEFA Direct 199