"The Lionesses have inspired the next generation" - England's Euros triumph can turbo charge girls football in Calderdale

The success of the England women's football team will inspire more girls in Calderdale to take up the sport.

By Tom Scargill
Wednesday, 3rd August 2022, 10:11 am

That's the view of junior football coaches in Calderdale after the Lionesses roared to victory on Sunday in the 2022 Women's Euros against Germany at Wembley, watched by a TV audience of 17m.

Becky Alderson coaches under 12s at King Cross Juniors Football Club and is the club secretary for Brighouse Town Women.

She has been a coach for around six years, and coaches boys and girls.

Chloe Kelly celebrates her winning goal for England Lionesses on Sunday at Wembley

"I definitely think that will be the case in the near future," she said when asked whether the Lionesses' triumph will see more girls take up the game.

"Once the new season starts, we'll probably start seeing an increase in girls coming through, and I guess it's what we can do at a local level to increase that participation as well.

"So offering girls only sessions if that's what it takes.

"When you see teams looking for new players for their teams, it's getting it out there that girls can come along as well.

Becky Alderson

"A lot of it at the minute is still 'oh it's a boys team' or 'it's a girls team', when actually it can be that but it can also be a mixed team, and it's getting that out there."

Brighouse Town have teams from under 8 to under 16 level, and are starting tiny tots age groups as well.

"I'm part of Halifax Friendly Football Club, which has a mum's age group, and over the last four weeks of the Women's Euros, you've seen a lot more people join the WhatsApp group and come along to training," Becky said.

"It's there for women and girls for all ages to play.

Girls football at Hebden Bridge Saints

"When the games are on the WhatsApp groups go made because everyone wants to be involved, which is really good."

Becky still feels there is progress to be made in getting women's football into the mainstream, but that a lot of good work has been done.

"I still think it's in a transitional period, it's definitely going in the right direction but there's still that negativity around it," she said.

"Potentially you're always going to have that, have those people who think women shouldn't play football and things like that.

Girls football at Hebden Bridge Saints

"Ian Wright has talked about the importance of getting girls playing football in PE, and you look at the statistics around female participation in sport generally, it's massively lower than males.

"So I don't think it's there but it's definitely closer than being there to 12 months ago.

"The Euros has been massive to be able to increase that and if you looked at the participation from six months ago to now, we're in a better place than we were but I don't think we're quite there yet."

Ryan West from Halifax Friendly FC said: "We have gone from having six ladies at our first session in May 2021 to now regularly having at least 16-18 every week.

"This week we will see our highest numbers ever with 23 signed up so far driven by women being inspired to play again after the final.

"This is despite most of our regulars being on holiday. We also have ex-Lioness Issy Pollard from Halifax join us from time to time.

England Lionesses celebrate their win at Wembley on Sunday

"We also now have two ladies teams in the West Riding Beginners League and are running our own ladies tournament in August.

"Ladies football is booming and we are proud to be a part of it."

Richard Woods is chairman of Hebden Bridge Saints Junior Football Club, which had around 270 registered players last season across their 18 teams at different age groups.

"We had our AGM the other week and this was one of the topics of conversation," he said.

"We only have one full girls team who are under 14s and have been quite successful.

"We've been talking about how we need to promote the girls game more in the club and get more local girls to join.

"We have girls who play for some of the boys teams.

"Hopefully the profile of it, especially with the success (of the Lionesses) is going to encourage more girls to want to take up the game.

"I've watched some of the games myself and the standard is very good. It can only be a positive.

"The club's got one or two female coaches and managers and we're hoping to possibly form a women's team.

"We started a veterans team, and an open age team last year for the first time ever, and we've just introduced walking football.

"So junior girls football and women's football has to be another area for us to look at.

"With the introduction of the Women's Super League, it's all high profile now."

Adam Warburton coaches the under 13 girls at Hebden Bridge Saints and is a trustee and committee member of the club.

"The whole squad have been watching the Euros right from the first game at Old Trafford," he said.

"It’s fantastic for them to see role models on the biggest stage and shows them there’s a clear pathway to achieving their dreams - so no more shouting “Ronaldo” when shooting, but “Mead!” instead.

"Hopefully more girls will be watching the Euros and it’ll be peaking their interest in football and encouraging them to get out and play.

"The under 13 girls team has grown and gone from strength to strength over the years, winning tournaments and the West Riding Cup.

"But the growth has come from players introducing their friends, rather than because of broader interest.

"We only have one girls team at the club at the moment - both due to a lack of coaches and players at other age groups.

"We’ve made it an aim of the club to grow the girls game with more teams and players this season, and we’re really hoping the Euros provides the catalyst for this growth."

Todmorden Juniors FC's under 12's girls comets manager, Neil Walsh, said: "It's absolutely brilliant.

"I started coaching the club a year ago and we started sessions on a Saturday where the majority were boys, but we started having a number of girls come down.

"Then more and more came on board and really enjoyed it. My daughter was one of them, and in the end we had that many girls come down we decided to create a team, and that turned into two teams because we had so many.

"We've watched some Women's Super League games when we've not been able to train, we've been to see the Lionesses in a friendly and a number of the team went to the first game in the Euros at Old Trafford.

"One of our girls actually got a ticket for the final and was there to watch the parade through London the next day too.

"It's so inspiring, and I think what it'll do for girls and women's football will be fantastic.

"We struggle for facilities in Todmorden unfortunately, but we are looking at as many options as we can to build the club, in particular the girls football, because I believe it's the first time Todmorden has had a girls team in over 50 years.

"The Lionesses have inspired the next generation to come through, and I think we're going to be inundated now after watching that win!"

Steve Nichol, head of youth development at FC Halifax Town, said: "The success of the Lionesses is a culmination of many years of work from the FA and clubs and coaches at both professional and grassroots level. There is now a pathway for girls to progress in the game.

"There are record numbers of girls playing football in England and with the increased visibility of the female game, success and profile of this tournament and the role models it is making there will be more girls and women dreaming about playing the game.

"To create a legacy and capitalise on the enthusiasm that currently exists now is an important time to think about the future of the women’s game – how can it be further funded and supported to continue to progress?

"We have noticed in the junior sessions delivered via our Foundation an increasing interest from girls of all levels of play. More recently we have partnered Leeds United Foundation to run girls only sessions, the taster sessions have been well received and we are expecting around 70 girls to attend the sessions from September."

Todmorden Juniors Comets Girls