Lionesses: England’s Euro 2022 winners urge Tory leadership duo to help schoolgirls play football
England’s European champions have urged the Conservative party leadership candidates to ensure “every young girl” can play football at school.
The women’s team beat Germany 2-1 at Wembley on Sunday to lift their first major trophy.
It was also England’s first since the men won the 1966 World Cup.
In an open letter to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, the 23-member Euro 2022 squad said: “This is an opportunity to make a huge difference.”
“A change that will impact millions of young girls’ lives,” they added. “We ask you to make it a priority to invest into girls’ football in schools, so that every girl has the choice.”
The team highlighted only 63% of girls can play football in PE lessons, according to a Football Association (FA) campaign published last year.
They also asked that all girls should have access to a minimum of two hours a week in PE.
A report by England Football, part of the FA, claimed that only 44% of secondary schools in England offer girls equal access to football in PE lessons.
A campaign spokesperson for Sunak said he had been inspired by the team and had already said he would launch a review “to make sure that all women and girls have the opportunity to take part in the beautiful game”.
A spokesperson for Truss said England’s Euros success would have a lasting impact on women’s football and she would investigate “what prevents schools from delivering the recommended minimum of two hours PE per week”.
The Lionesses added: “Throughout the Euros, we as a team spoke about our legacy and goal to inspire a nation. Many will think this has already been achieved but we see this only as the beginning.
“We are looking to the future. We want every young girl in the nation to be able to play football at school.
“We have made incredible strides in the women’s game but this generation of schoolgirls deserve more. We want their dreams to also come true.
“We want to create real change in this country and we are asking you, if you were to become Prime Minister on 5 September, to help us achieve that change.”
The team celebrated their Euros triumph in front of 7,000 fans at Trafalgar Square on Monday and the Queen led tributes by sending a message of congratulations in which she called them “an inspiration”.
England and Manchester City forward Chloe Kelly, who scored the winning goal against Germany, said the Lionesses had set out to “inspire the nation”.
Kelly grew up playing cage football with her five brothers and their friends, while also playing in the boys’ school football team and at QPR.
“You also want to be in an environment where you are comfortable and that is massive for young girls,” she told BBC sports editor Dan Roan.
“There will be a massive turning point from this summer. The girls, as a group, we want to make a change and if we can do that, that is massive.
“Girls being able to do what they love, no matter the quality, let’s go and play.”
While football is the most popular team sport for young people in England, only a third of girls aged five to 18 participate each week, according to research by the FA.
The Department for Education (DfE) said it was up to schools to decide which sports to offer pupils, but they should offer “comparable activities” to girls and boys.
England’s national curriculum is not gender specific and lists football only as an example sport, alongside others such as badminton, cricket and netball.
Figures published by the FA, which is running a LetGirlsPlay campaign to give girls the same access to football as boys in schools and clubs by 2024, show that while 72% of primary schools offered equal football coaching to boys and girls last year, this fell to just 44% in secondary schools.
Its research found 60% of the girls who play football in schools want to play more and 91% of girls who do not play want the opportunity to do so.
“We fully support the Football Association’s ambition to give girls equal access to football in schools and clubs by 2024 and continue to work closely with them to help achieve this,” said a DfE spokesperson.
“We’re funding work to help thousands of girls take part in physical activity, including the ‘Your Time’ Programme, which gives thousands of girls aged 8-16 access to competitive sport and sport leadership opportunities.”