Legacy – it is a word that is bandied around a lot in sport. A buzzword, one used with increasing frequency around the hosting of major tournaments. Its definition is sometimes uncertain and how you measure it unclear.
However, with the government’s landmark announcement this morning that every girl in England will be given equal access to football and school sport, that meaning is finally clear. This is really what legacy looks like!
While an all sports pledge, football is very much front and centre after a campaign spearheaded by England’s European Championship winning Lionesses. No sooner had they lifted the trophy on the Wembley turf than they turned their thoughts to how their historic victory could inspire societal change. It was front and foremost in captain Leah Williamson’s words as she ran around the pitch in celebration; and was followed the next day by an open letter to the Government – the brainchild of Lotte Wubben-Moy – asking for equal access to sport and football for every schoolgirl and signed by all 23 players.
Baroness Sue Campbell, The FA’s Director of Women’s Football has lauded the announcement and the players: “A conversation led by Lotte Wubben-Moy and Leah Williamson on the bus from the Trafalgar Square celebrations has today delivered real change in society and the announcement is testament to their tenacity and excellent engagement with the Government. The FA are as proud of them as we have ever been.”
The new standard for school sports will see girls and boys offered the same sports in school with the Government expecting all schools to deliver a minimum of two hours of PE every week. It is an announcement backed by significant multi-million-pound investment into school sport and afterschool activities, including over £600m in funding over the next 2 academic years for the PE and Sport Premium and £22m for the School Games Organisers network. In addition, £57m will be allocated to the open sports facilities programme, opening up more school sport facilities outside of school hours which is especially targeted at girls, disadvantaged pupils and pupils with special educational needs.
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 am proud to be part of something that will live on for generations to come. This is just the beginning.
Williamson has welcomed the significant news, reserving particular praise for her England and Arsenal team-mate, Wubben-Moy. “The success of the summer has inspired so many young girls to pursue their passion for football,” she said. “We see it as our responsibility to open the doors for them to do so and this announcement makes that possible. 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.”
With this watershed news, there is no doubt that the events of last summer and the achievements of the Lionesses have caused significant change for the future of women’s sport in this county. There it no doubt more to be done and to ensure the government follows through but it is the start of an impactful and poignant legacy in every sense of the word that will contribute massively to levelling the playing field and the development of the country’s next female sport stars. It is an achievement of which the players, the FA and everyone associated with the Lionesses can be truly proud! They will not rest on their laurels – as Wubben-Moy has said, “It is only the beginning”.