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The Lionesses' summer success at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup has helped a growth in participation across all levels of the women's game.
Latest figures from The Football Association [The FA] reveal more than 2.63 million women aged 16 and over in England now play football. Since the tournament in France there are over 850,000 more committed participants, with the retention of 23.1% existing adult female participants playing 11-a-side or small-sided football competitively from September onwards.
Participation figures have risen across a variety of adult age groups with almost 350,000 new participants [compared with the same point last year]. The growth has been facilitated by Charter Standard Clubs and community organisations.
Girls under the age of 16 are also enjoying more opportunities than ever to play the game. There are now 1,200 Wildcats centres established, providing more than 30,000 girls with the opportunity to play in the community. The newly established FA Girls' Football School
Partnerships supported by Barclays are reaching over 6,500 schools across England. In addition, this week saw the launch of The FA's Shooting Stars initiative alongside Disney, The Youth Sport Trust and The National Literacy trust, which will encourage 1,200 primary schools to inspire girls to get active and learn the fundamentals of football during break-time and after school. For more information on The FA's schools programme visit girlsfootballinschools.org.
The growth coincides with the final year of The FA's The Gameplan for Growth strategy, which promised to double participation by 2020. With targets on course to be achieved, future priorities will be outlined in the next phase of the strategy, which will be announced this summer with a focus on giving girls equal access to football in schools and clubs.
Following the Lionesses' semi final appearance at the FIFA Women's World Cup [watched by a peak domestic television audience of 11.7 million], there have been record league crowds and Saturday's highly-anticipated fixture with Germany at Wembley Stadium has been sold out since the middle of October.
Louise Gear, The FA's Head of Women's Development, said: "The growth we've experienced is proof of the ‘see it, play it' mantra which is at the heart of our ethos to inspire participation across all age groups. In the Lionesses we're fortunate to have a wonderful group of role models performing at the highest level of the game, who inspire females of all ages to have the confidence to get out and give football a try; be it for fitness, competition or fun.
"What we've seen this summer is growth across the majority of adult age groups and many on the pathway from kicking a ball in the garden to playing competitive 11-a-side and small-sided football. The growth of the women's recreational movement driven by volunteers alongside our Charter Standard Clubs network has successfully catered for this interest, but our focus will also turn to adults who have a desire to just play for fun.
"At a junior level programmes such as Wildcats and Shooting Stars point to an exciting future but we'll continue to assess all areas of our participation pathway.
"Our learnings from the summer will shape our future strategy and with Tokyo in 2020 and a home UEFA Women's EURO 2021, we'll look to take advantage of these opportunities and others for sustainable growth."
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