LIVERPOOL: Moya Dodd, women’s member of the FIFA executive committee, was impressed by a session of the Premier League Girls Football Programme that she saw during a weekend visit to Liverpool.
The chair of the FIFA Task Force for Women’s Football and a vice-president of the Asian Football Confederation saw approximately 30 young female players from across Merseyside take part in training led by Vicky Jepson, the PL Girls Football co-ordinator for Liverpool FC Foundation, at Anfield Sports and Community Centre.
“It was great to see girls around 14 years old getting active, even though they haven’t been in a team before,” Dodd said. “You could feel their enjoyment and confidence growing with every pass. What they gain from these programmes – health, friendship, striving to be better – will give lifelong benefits both on and off the field.”
The Premier League Girls Football Programme was founded last year to drive up female football participation using the League’s successful satellite club model developed in the Premier League 4 Sport programme.
The three-way partnership between the Premier League, The FA and Sport England aims to use the power of the club badge and the high-quality club coaching experience to drive participation. Already since the launch at the end of October 2013, more than 9,000 young females were engaged, with two thirds of those being over 14.
Kelly Simmons, the FA director of the National Game and Women’s Football, and Rachel Pavlou, the FA National Women’s Football Development Manager, also joined Dodd at the coaching session.
“This visit gave Liverpool FC Foundation the opportunity to showcase the commitment that the Premier League and our clubs are making to promote football participation opportunities for girls,” Simon Morgan, Head of Community Development at the Premier League, said. “We are very proud that over 9,000 girls have been engaged during the first year of the programme.”
Dodd recognises the role that the League and its clubs can play in encouraging girls to play.
“The Premier League and its clubs are enormously influential with fans, partners and admirers around the world,” she said. “As sports bodies, they can be models for inclusion of women and girls as players in grassroots programs, academy pathways, and at the elite level.
As business leaders they can lead the way in commercialising women’s football – like a new product line – and in promoting their elite players alongside male stars through their communications and media channels. The reach of the Premier League is such that this will resonate all around the world.”
The involvement of the trained clubs’ coaches in the programme is also a big factor for Dodd, who cited the important impact of professional coaching, especially by women, as was the case with Jepson, or with the presence of top-level footballers, such as Becky Easton, the Liverpool Ladies defender who also attended and took part in the coaching session and as well as a question-and-answer session.
“Women were unable to play for so long that the women’s game needs good coaches to accelerate that development,” Dodd said. “It was great to see Vicky Jepson running the girls’ session. She is very serious about her coaching career – in fact she’d stepped off a plane that morning from the US, coached her underage [Centre of Excellence] team then attended the Premier League session.
“Top players are role models and help girls to dream about playing at the top level, and aspire to be as fit and skilful as Easton. Female coaches are important because they usually bring years of experience in the women’s game, since they rarely get job offers in the men’s game, especially ex-players.
“Top women coaches like Laura Harvey [former Arsenal coach], Emma Hayes [the Chelsea Ladies coach] and Hope Powell [former England coach] also illustrate the powerful truth that women actually do know about football!”
While in England the Premier League Girls Football Programme is helping more girls get involved, the other key to developing the women’s game around the world, Dodd says, is the changing of attitudes and the FIFA Task Force is leading the attempts to make this happen.
“In some parts, girls simply don’t get playtime as they are expected to do household work while the boys are fed, educated and given leisure time in preference to them,” she said. “In other places, girls’ competitions are not organised. Most significantly, it’s attitude – the view that football is a game for boys and men, or that women have little to offer.”
That is changing though. FIFA Congress recently agreed 10 fundamental principles for women’s football development – including that football should be equally accessible to girls as it is to boys, and that women should be involved at every decision-making level, including on governing boards.
Moya Dodd, centre, was impressed by the ssesion she saw at Anfield
About 30 young players from across Merseyside joined the LFC Foundation session