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Girls' football in Lincolnshire 'will die out in five years'

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: August 14, 2012

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The success of Great Britain’s women’s football team in London 2012 has heightened expectations of how the Games will inspire the next generation into the sport. However, as Ed Grover finds out, many involved in girls football believe the popularity of the game in Lincolnshire is on a rapid decline...

Amid the hype about the boost the Olympics will give women's football, clubs have predicted a bleak future for grassroots teams.

Cliff Penning, chairman of Birchwood Colts Junior Football Club, believes there will be no girls leagues in the county within five years.

And he says his Lincoln outfit will have no girls team for the first time in ten years this season.

The Lincolnshire Football Association (FA) said it was "struggling" to attract more girls into the game and admitted there was a countywide problem.

Dave Lloyd, chairman of Lincoln Griffins Ladies FC, added the girls' game had faced a "year-on-year decline".

Lincoln Ladies have two stars in the Great Britain Olympics squad and there is hope they can inspire youngsters into the game.

However, Mr Penning says there is waning interest from girls in the sport.

The coach puts it down to insufficient investment and more focus on the elite ladies game.

He said: "I think in three to five years all girls teams and both of the leagues will be gone in Lincolnshire.

"For the first time in ten years we won't have a girls team – it's a bit soul destroying.

"Will there be a league in future? I don't think there will. Girls football seems to be dying.

"There is a lot of investment in elite football but not enough in grass roots.

"There isn't enough promotion of it and I don't see too many clubs doing anything either.

"If we don't have some leadership, it's going to die."

The news of clubs' struggles will come as a blow to bodies hoping the Olympics will get more girls into football.

Linzi Hewitt, women and girls football development officer at the Lincolnshire FA, said the Games had created a "battleground" for sports trying to recruit young players.

Popular alternatives to football are netball and hockey.

"We know the position Birchwood are in and it's a wider issue both within the county and the country," she said.

"We haven't found a magic wand to get girls into the game but it's not for a want of trying.

"There are girls playing football in PE and at school but getting them into the community clubs is difficult.

"We have fallen short of finding that remedy."

Ms Hewitt added over the last ten years clubs enjoyed a surge of interest from girls and so had not focused on promotion more recently.

But she believes there will continue to be girls league in the county as long as clubs create long-term plans and work with the FA.

Despite Mr Penning's claims about investment, the body said money put into grassroots girls' football far outweighed cash put into the elite game.

Megan Harris, the Lincoln Ladies captain and community manager, said she has not seen a drop in interest while visiting schools.

"I haven't noticed a decline, to be honest," she said.

"The numbers seem to be similar to last year."

The midfielder added the impact of the Olympics would be felt in the future and not in the build up.

"It's a massive event," she said. "If we can get the players in the spotlight I think they will be an inspiration to younger girls."

The FA said its strategy for the next year included running events where clubs could recruit players.

They will be held on Saturday mornings in Cherry Willingham, Sleaford, Boston and Grimsby.

The body also said it was available to help clubs create plans for the future.

Mr Lloyd, whose club has six teams, says the county's size means some fixtures require a 150-mile round trip for some players.

He believes in the context of economic pressures this has been a factor in deterring new players.

And he says teams in the south of the county have moved into a Cambridgeshire league to cut journey times.

He added clubs were also no longer required to run a girls team in order to gain the FA's Charter Standard status.

"Seven years ago there were around 96 teams in the county but so far this year there are around 35," he said.

"It's depressing when you see the size of the leagues in the past."

For more information on getting into girls football, contact Linzi Hewitt at the Lincolnshire FA on 08449 670708.

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  • HamptonFooty  |  February 10 2013, 9:18PM

    What a load of tosh!!! Girls football in Cambridgeshire is growing at a rapid rate and has been for the past 5 yeas. Just needs a pro-active and willing County FA to work with clubs to promote the sport in schools. Tried to arrange an event in conjunction with Lincs FA and they couldn't even be bothered to reply!!!

  • nigelsparky  |  August 16 2012, 9:10PM

    Participation in playing football has been in decline for years, not just for girls but, boys and men. It has nothing to do with investment it's purely there are more things for people to do with their free time. You only have to look at how many leagues up and down the country have shrunk.In Grimsby the Saturday league once had 10 divisions, now I believe it only has the one. This is not unique to Grimsby, there was an article on here only a few weeks ago about a local league folding, due to lack of clubs.

  • eatmygoal  |  August 15 2012, 3:40PM

    No that is the gist of my point though, that top sport is all as "bad" as each other and you trying to put rugby above football is flawed. And my point was not why people pick on football, I think football is big enough to defend itself. It is why do people who enjoy rugby have to do so by also mentioning that people dive in football or that x y and z is bad in football? It doesn't seem to be enough to love rugby for what it is As an ex regular amatuer Rugby League player, in a squash league, playing at a tennis club, training for the London Marathon, planning for cycling part of my beloved Tour De France next year, and working towards my athletics coaching qualifications, I am interested to know which sport it is that I am a so called fan of? Hopefully we can discuss it at Twickenham in November, not missed an autumn friendly against a Pacific Island yet. As for the relevant topic, Women's football is sadly struggling. Arguably the best nation is the US, having won the gold 3 times now and always there or there abouts in the World cup. Yet there is no professional league for them this season. The players have to coach and go semi pro to make ends meet. If the previous strong hold of women's football is find it hard then that says a lot for the rest. I genuinely think there is a lack of interest. I have tried hard to get into the game watching it on telly and at Sincil bank when the lady imps played there but I personally don't enjoy it and that is the same for most people I know. I hope it goes on to do well, but I just can't see it.

  • ThornyRay  |  August 15 2012, 2:40PM

    It seems like I've hit a nerve, yet you still point out single incidents and fail to defend Football. you asked why people always picked on Football, yet you still have not come up with a counter argument. The point I made originally was about the behaviour of Footballers, in relation to a gentleman saying that Football was a man's game. What I should have pointed out, was that the behaviour that I have commented on, is rarely seen in the women's game. Mr 'Eatmygoal' by your reaction, you demonstrate exactly what I mean by so called fans of a sport. I will apologies however for going completable off topic and leave the matter there.

  • eatmygoal  |  August 15 2012, 2:20PM

    Got that right. You need only look at cricket to see the change the almighty dollar has had on them. Batsmen don't walk, no balls betting scandals, match fixing etc. Rugby of course though is far above football for class and honesty. I mean just because the players get absolutely plastered during a Rugby World Cup, have complaints about their treatment of a hotel worker in their room, throw dwarves, cheat on their wives, and jump off the back of ferries does not mean they are not jolly good chaps. Also the eye guaging going on where the ref can't see is accidental. This season they will be ruling out vido referees because the players are so throughly honest that the ref can simply ask them what happened and trust them. Oh wait...

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  • sfocata  |  August 15 2012, 2:12PM

    Pointless trying to say rugby (or anything else) is less dodgy than football... corruption and mismanagement run through all top professional sports. This is about a wider picture of inequality and lack of investment at grass roots level.

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  • Lincolnpixie  |  August 15 2012, 1:50PM

    Just wanted to add that given the obesity epidemic that has swept our country, I think any sport for all kids, regardless of gender can only be a good thing, not to mention all the social benefits of learning to play in a team. Oh and also......it's 2012, not 1912 for goodness sake!

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  • ThornyRay  |  August 15 2012, 12:12PM

    Football let's itself down. In which other sports do the players feign injury in order to gain an advantage or have an opponent send off the field of play? I used to enjoy Football, but it is not the game it used to be. I am sure you can find the odd incident in other sports, but the fact remains with Football, we could spend all day listing the incidents of cheating, greed, unsportsmanlike like conduct or even just general abuse. It's not just the players, the 'fans' are just as bad, when was the last time a Lincoln Rugby club match was called off because of the 'fans'

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  • eatmygoal  |  August 15 2012, 11:33AM

    When was the last time a football player used a blood capsule in a game? I enjoy rugby, but I am always confused by people who have to take the oppertunity to put down football at the same time.

  • ThornyRay  |  August 15 2012, 10:57AM

    MRutherford, I think you are mistaken, Rugby is a man's game. Football is played by over paid Thespians who spend more time rolling on the floor crying in pain, only to jump up two seconds later and carry on. The last time I visited a non league match, I still saw a bench of 'players' with bleached hair and several sparkly earrings, maybe they are not the bastion of masculinity you see them as. Maybe you should also check you history, some of the highest attended matches have been Women's matches during the war. I have never understood why certain men seem to think that Football has this given right to be dominated by men, it's is the only sport I can think of that has this attitude. I would also like to point out at this point that I am no way saying Women can not play Rugby, I know a few players who would see the funny side of my comment, but would tell me off for not pointing this out.

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