Children’s Commissioner
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2024 Euros – an opportunity to inspire a new generation to enjoy sport

As Children’s Commissioner I hear from children about the importance of sport and the transformative effect it can have on their lives.  

Participation in team sports is a powerful tool – it enables children to develop communication skills, create lasting friendships and build their confidence. Playing sport teaches children about setting and achieving goals, helping children to understand their emotions and redirect negative feelings in a positive way, building resilience and making them feel better about themselves.  

The Big Ambition confirmed children’s love for sport, particularly football – their responses were passionate, and it was clear just how much they valued the ability to be active and children appreciated the benefits sports brought to their daily lives.  

2024 is a potential golden summer of sport with major sporting events including the Euros, the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris, as well as the usual line up of UK-based events like Wimbledon, the British Grand Prix and The Open. I’m excited for a new generation of children to be inspired by the thrill of live sport and be part of the huge swell of national pride that accompanies a tournament like the Euros, which kicks off today. 

With Gareth Southgate’s England squad playing their first match against Serbia on Sunday in the men’s Euros, I am taking a deeper look at what children have told me about football over my three years as Children’s Commissioner.  

It was clear from The Big Ambition that many children felt there weren’t enough spaces to be active and play football, children from as young as six spoke about wanting more football pitches to use.  

The desire for more space to play was matched by a desire for more football equipment in schools, with one 10-year-old boy saying: “provide schools with footballs.” 

A number of children highlighted that that participating in football was often too expensive: 

“There should be cheaper football clubs.” – Boy, 11 

There was also a sense among responses that – even despite the recent success of the Lionesses – opportunities for girls to play football weren’t equal to those available for boys. One 10-year-old girl told The Big Ambition that: “More young girls should have the same amount of football clubs as boys because women’s football often gets overlooked because of men’s football. I should feel like I can actually become a footballer, but all of the academies overlook young girls who have talents and look at the boys. Most people make fun of women’s football because they think that the men’s football players can easily beat them.”  

Sadly, attitudes towards girls’ football doesn’t seem to have progressed since The Big Ask in 2021 with responses at the time stating: “I want to be a footballer when I grow up; as a girl, boys get priority because it’s a men’s sport”, – Girl 13. And: “I think that some stereotypes hold children back, such as girls can’t play football” – Girl 12.  

While there is still some way to go to make football more equitable for all, it’s fantastic to see so many children that are passionate about being active. The benefits of physical activity are well documented with advantages for mental health. One 16-year-old summed up the power of football saying: “It’s relaxing and allows children time to get their minds away from schoolwork.”  

As we saw over the last two summers during the Women’s Euros and World Cup, football – no matter which team is playing – football has the power to unite and inspire the nation. Let’s hope the men’s squad can inspire a future generation of children to enjoy themselves and feel safe, or simply to spend time with their friends.


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