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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL: Increase in interest but more support needed

England’s run to the semi-finals of the Fifa Women’s World Cup can only enhance the increased interest and participation in female football in South Holland and Lincolnshire.

The Lionesses were beaten 2-1 by the USA in Lyon, with a TV audience of several million watching at home.

Local footballer Andrew Tidswell runs Elite Sports Academy, which aims to give youngsters the best chance in sport. He’s noted a significant increase in interest in girls’ and women’s football but says it needs a lot more support locally to further the good work being done.

Girls school football at University Academy Holbeach. (Couldnt get Bourne Westfiled)Action from games Market Deeping CPS vs Spalding Parish (5647526)
Girls school football at University Academy Holbeach. (Couldnt get Bourne Westfiled)Action from games Market Deeping CPS vs Spalding Parish (5647526)

“There has definitely been a rise in young girls wanting to play football - especially over the last couple of years in England it has accelerated,” said Tidswell. “Other countries are ahead of us in terms of girls’ participation but I think that comes down to facilities and accessibility at times.”

Elite, based in Deeping St Nicholas, has recently created a Girls’ Football School League’s programme which runs in tandem with the boys’. It’s well attended and much enjoyed.

Tidswell, who has played for Spalding United, Holbeach United and Pinchbeck United, said: “I know of many girls’ football teams in the local area who are doing great work in providing what they can in terms of regular training, fixtures and tournaments for our youngsters. To have so many girls’ teams in the local area is testament to the work and hours many volunteers are putting in.

“I say there is a lot of work still to be done because I know in some age groups there is a real mixture of ages playing in order to fulfil fixtures.”

“I’m fortunate I can also make a difference within my job role and this is where I have seen the popularity of girls’ football increase. Many of our local schools now have girls’ specific additional football clubs as well as boys. Ten years ago a football club at a school may have had one or two girls attending within a male-dominated group. Now 20 to 25 girls are wanting to play, which is fantastic.”

Tidswell says access to facilities in Lincolnshire is a key issue for both the men’s and women’s game. He believes amuch-needed upgrade in facilities would lead to a further increase in participation.

That in turn could lead to the creation ofwomen’s league but it would require something of a step change.

“I think it would be great to have a local women’s football league but with the amount of fixtures played on the Sir Halley Stewart and Carter’s Park in a season I simply don’t think it can happen locally as clubs will be unable to house them,” added Tidswell. “You could say they could go down local parks etc but is that going to really be the answer to providing good quality women’s leagues?”

* Have you noticed the rise of girls’ and women’s football locally? What further support is required for the men’s and women’s game? Email spaldingeditor@iliffepublishing.co.uk


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