Thanks to the Lionesses, girls will now be able to play football at school

Following their Euros win last summer, the Lionesses penned an open letter to the then-prime ministerial candidates demanding equal access to school sports for girls. The government has now pledged to ensure that girls and boys can play football.

Another day, another victory for the Lionesses as the government pledges to ensure girls in England are given equal access to football in schools. It is a result of the open letter addressed to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss and signed by all 23 members of the England Senior Women’s Euro squad demanding that girls be given equal access to football following their success at the Euros last summer.

The letter, sparked by a conversation led by Lotte Wubben-Moy and England captain Leah Williamson on the team bus following the Trafalgar Square celebrations, was shared in response to a refusal from the Department for Education to ensure that all girls would be able to play football in PE. At the time, the government said that schoolgirls can’t be guaranteed the same football lessons as boys. Instead, they could be offered the chance to play a ‘comparable’ sport. The letter stressed the need for equality in school sports. “They deserve to play football at lunchtime, they deserve to play football in PE lessons and they deserve to believe they can one day play for England. We want their dreams to come true,” it read.  

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Six months on from their Euros win and penning the letter, and the Lionesses have made history all over again. Schools in England will now be required to provide a minimum of two hours’ PE a week, up to year 11, and are expected to provide equal access to all sports, including football. As it stands, only 67% of all schools and 41% of secondary schools offer football equally to girls in PE lessons.

The pledge is backed by a multi-million-pound investment – more than £600 million in funding will be delivered over the next two academic years to support school and afterschool activities. Wubben-Moy and Williamson announced the news, which coincides with International Women’s Day, on Twitter this morning.

“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,” Williamson said of the pledge.

“This is the legacy that we want to live much longer than us as a team. On behalf of all the Lionesses players, we’d like to thank our teammate Lotte Wubben-Moy as a driving force behind this transformational change. We couldn’t be prouder to stand alongside her and we all look forward to seeing the impact this legacy creates.”

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Wubben-Moy stressed the importance of equal access to sports in schools: “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’m proud to be part of something that will live on for generations to come.”

While the future of football and, indeed, all sports does look a little brighter for girls this morning, the biggest challenges – upholding the pledge and building upon these foundations – lay ahead. In the words of Wubben-Moy: “This is just the beginning.”

Main image: Getty

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