We’ve taken ‘big step’ on quest to help women ‘feel that they can’ – Daily worlds news

Baroness Sue Campbell says developments in English women’s football in recent years have inspired females to “feel that they can” – both within the game and beyond.

Campbell is this year retiring from her role as the Football Association’s director of women’s football, having been at the helm since 2016.

The past eight years have seen considerable progress, including England achieving firsts of winning a major tournament – the 2022 Euros on home soil – and reaching a World Cup final in 2023 under boss Sarina Wiegman, and access to football for girls in schools being boosted.

Speaking ahead of International Women’s Day, Campbell told the PA news agency: “The reason I took the job was I have been passionate all my life about the power of sport to change people’s lives.

“And that’s not just in sport – yes, for some people, like our elite players, you can help make their dreams come true, or support them on that journey to that special moment. But for many people, it isn’t the sport itself, it’s the way it gives people confidence, self-esteem, self-worth.

“So when we wrote our strategy, the team and I (in 2020), we called it Inspiring Positive Change, and we meant not just in football – we meant bigger than football, because we believe for the women’s game it is bigger than football.

“It is about inspiring women to recognise they can play at the highest level, coach, referee, sit in the boardroom, and I do think, just listening to people talk generally, we’ve inspired, the players, the Lionesses particularly.

“But I think the strategy and what we’ve done has really inspired girls and women to feel that they can, it’s possible. Do you want to be an astronaut? You can be an astronaut. You want to be an engineer? You can be an engineer. And I think that’s really, really important.

“I feel we’ve taken a big step on that journey, and whoever I hand the baton to I’m sure will be someone with the same passion to really drive that wider societal change.”

The FA’s update on its four-year strategy published in December reported a target for 75 per cent of schools to be offering equal access to football in PE lessons had been met.

On International Women’s Day last year, the Government announced a package to support equal opportunities in school sport after England’s players called for change following their Euros win.

Asked what she was most proud of from her tenure, Campbell said: “I feel we’ve built a really good equal-access programme for girls in schools, I think we’ve done a terrific job there.

Whoever I hand the baton to I’m sure will be someone with the same passion to really drive that wider societal change.

Baroness Sue Campbell

“You’ve got to put on my list winning the Euros, a special moment. But I think the thing I’m most proud of is the team I’ve built in the FA to continue the journey – they are, like me, missionaries.”

The FA’s December update reported increases in terms of female players, youth teams, coaches and referees, and there has been a rise in average attendance in the Women’s Super League, which went fully professional in 2018, was the subject of a major broadcast deal in 2021, and from next season will be overseen by a new organisation currently known as ‘NewCo’, with Nikki Doucet as chief executive.

A big talking point has been a lack of diversity in the women’s game in terms of ethnic minority representation, an area in which Campbell says “there’s a lot of work to do but we are addressing it”, pointing to changes that have been made to the talent pathway.

On former England midfielder Karen Carney’s women’s football review, Campbell said: “I think we recognise it as being a series of recommendations which all of us are signed up to and want to make happen – it’s just how.”

Campbell stressed the importance of finance for the future of the women’s game, saying: “I think we’re all very proud of the journey we’ve been on. We all recognise there’s still a lot to do. But I think it’s investment that’s going to drive us now.

“I think we have real clarity in the vision, we know where we’re trying to go.”

The 75-year-old says a conclusion to the process of appointing her successor is “fairly close”, and added: “I haven’t finished. I have a massive desire still to change the world we live in. I want to continue while I can, if I can make a difference – where and what I don’t know yet.”


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