Man Utd and ex-Man City heroes join forces with Andy Burnham to support girls’ football in schools

The Greater Manchester mayor has told schools that it’s time to “level the playing field” when it comes to girls in football.

Andy Burnham and former England and former Manchester City star Karen Bardsley are calling on schools to enable more girls to play football regularly.

Backed by the FA and Manchester United striker Alessia Russo, they will be writing to Greater Manchester schools this week, asking them to introduce a minimum of two hours of PE per week, more extra-curricular football and better support for female PE teachers – similar to the letter the England team sent to the government shortly after their victory in the Euros.

Ever since the Lionesses’ triumph this summer, there has been a concerted effort to boost the profile of the women’s game and introduce more young girls to the sport.

Karen Bardsley, former England international and Chair of the Greater Manchester Women’s Football Board, said: “The success of the Lionesses at this summer’s Euro’s marked a major milestone in the evolution of football in this country.  So many were inspired by the success of the Lionesses - and here in Greater Manchester we want to capitalise on that success and deliver the legacy the England Women’s Team have championed.

Former Lioness and England star Karen Bardsley is urging schools to encourage more girls into football. Credit: Manchester World
Former Lioness and England star Karen Bardsley is urging schools to encourage more girls into football. Credit: Manchester World
Former Lioness and England star Karen Bardsley is urging schools to encourage more girls into football. Credit: Manchester World

“Every girl in Greater Manchester deserves the chance to play football at school and we’re determined to make that a reality here. From speaking to girls across the city-region I know how much confidence and enjoyment the sport can give, even leading to better attendance and performance in school.”

Alessia Russo, a United striker and member of the UEFA Women’s EURO-winning squad, said: “Too many girls are still unable to play football at school and that’s why I’m fully behind Greater Manchester in calling for that to change - and encourage all schools to get on board.”

There has been some progress in Manchester when it comes to girls in football. Currently, 906 of 1,271 schools are linked to a Barclays and FA Girls’ Football School Partnership by England Football.

Of these schools, 70% offer equal access to football in curriculum PE lessons for girls, but there is a large discrepancy when it comes to extra-curricular football. Only 46% of schools offer equal access to football outside of PE lessons, which reflects the national average.

Overall nationally, only 63% of schools offer girls equal access to football in PE lessons.

Greater Manchester mayor Mr Burnham said: “While Gareth Southgate’s team prepares for their World Cup quarter final this weekend, let’s not forget that it was the Lionesses who brought it home first at the Euros. They pledged to use their victory to create a lasting legacy for women’s football, and girls up and down the country will have been inspired to step out onto their school pitch, their local sports centre, or into their back garden and dream of playing for their country.

“If we want Greater Manchester to be the home of even more footballing success for generations to come, let’s level the playing field and make sure every girl has the chance to play football and achieve their own dreams.”

This comes as Manchester City WFC and Manchester United WFC prepare to go head to head this weekend at the Etihad stadium.