The government has heeded the calls of the Lionesses after their historic Euro 2022 win and committed to providing equal access to all sports in PE for boys and girls, a minimum of two hours of PE a week and a multimillion‑pound investment in school sports and after‑school activities.
The day after the Wembley final, the Lionesses wrote an open letter to the Tory leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss laying out demands which are now being met.
Leah Williamson, the England captain, greeted the announcement – on International Women’s Day – by saying “this is the legacy that we want to live much longer than us as a team”. She thanked her Arsenal and England teammate Lotte Wubben‑Moy for being “a driving force behind this transformational change”.
Williamson said: “The success of the summer has inspired so many young girls to pursue their passion for football. We see it as our responsibility to open the doors for them to do so and this announcement makes that possible.”
The plans set out to make the same sports available to boys and girls, where wanted, and a minimum two hours of PE a week up to the end of year 11. The government said more than £600m would be provided over the next two years to improve PE and sports in primary schools and up to another £57m to open more school sport facilities outside school hours, especially targeted at girls, disadvantaged pupils and pupils with special educational needs. Parity of provision for girls is to be rewarded with a Kitemark scheme.
Football Association figures published last July showed 72% of girls play as much football as boys in primary school but that the figure drops to 44% in secondary school and that only 40% of secondary schools offer girls the same access to football via after-school clubs as boys.
Wubben-Moy said: “By making football more accessible to millions of girls across the nation, we have opened a crucial door for the growth of women’s football and women’s sport as a whole. I am proud to be part of something that will live on for generations to come. This is just the beginning.”
The education secretary, Gillian Keegan, said the move was “breaking down the barriers some children face to access sport and building on the Lionesses’ legacy to ensure girls have the same access to all their favourite sports as boys”.
Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s director of women’s football, said that “what has been announced today is as important as anything that was achieved on the pitch in the summer”. She said: “A conversation led by Lotte Wubben-Moy and Leah Williamson on the bus from the Trafalgar Square celebrations has today delivered real change in society and the announcement is testament to their tenacity and excellent engagement with the government. The FA are as proud of them as we have ever been.”
Campbell said the funding for the PE and sport premium, £22m for the school games organisers network and strengthened guidance and monitoring of how that money is spent would have a “significant impact on participation and also the physical and emotional wellbeing of the nation’s children”.