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Culture Secretary to drive forward growth of women’s sport

The Culture Secretary yesterday brought together industry leaders responsible for delivering the recommendations made in the Review of Women's Football.

  • The FA, NewCo and others brought together by Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer to bring momentum to delivery of recommendations made in Karen Carney MBE’s Review of Women’s Football 
  • News comes as the Sports Minister convenes academics and industry stakeholders to explore further opportunities to propel women’s sport forward
  • Meetings build on the Government’s existing commitment to support the growth of women and girls’ sport, including the £30 million Lionesses Futures Fund 

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer yesterday convene the first Women’s Football Review Implementation Group, bringing together leaders to deliver the recommendations made in Karen Carney MBE’s blueprint for the domestic women’s game. 

Representatives from NewCo - the new independent body responsible for the management of the women’s professional game - the FA, Football Foundation, Sport England, the Sports Ground Safety Authority, Professional Football Association, the English Football League, the Department for Education and the Premier League will be challenged to update the Culture Secretary on progress so far. 

The group will be responsible for implementing world-leading standards for players, fans and staff; improving the talent pathway; and carving out a dedicated broadcast slot for women’s football amongst other recommendations. 

In December 2023, the Government supported in full the recommendations made in Carney’s review to deliver bold and sustainable growth of women’s football. This came following the publication of the Government’s new sport strategy to get 3.5 million more people active by 2030, including 1.25 million more women. 

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:

We are sticking to our plan to deliver increased growth and participation in women’s sport, so that we meet our ambitious target of getting 1.25 million more women active by 2030.

Last year, the Government supported in full the recommendations made in Karen Carney’s Review of Women’s Football. 

We are now delivering on recommendations made for the Government, including bringing together those responsible for bringing about change to ensure that progress is delivered at pace.

One key recommendation made in the Review was for Government to increase investment to accommodate meaningful access for women and girls to play sport alongside local authorities, the FA and the Premier League.

Progress on this has already been made with the Government’s commitment to invest £30 million to deliver 30 new state of the art 3G pitches at sites supporting women’s and girls’ teams across England via the Lionesses Futures Fund. Government is also taking action to improve equal access through unprecedented investment in grassroots facilities, with over 2,200 projects already delivered across the UK.

Offering her experience and industry knowledge, Carney will join the meeting to hear about what has been delivered so far when it comes to improving the talent pathway and addressing a lack of diversity in women’s football. 

Karen Carney MBE said:

It’s great to see how far we’ve come and the commitment made by the government to women’s football, but we cannot become complacent. It is my hope that the implementation group will ensure that we can progress further at a faster pace, working to get the review’s recommendations in play.

I am encouraged to see a wide range of stakeholders involved. Through collaboration, investment, and hard work, I truly believe we can make the sport world-leading in every aspect, from playing standards to access for fans and career opportunities for women. The growth of women’s sport represents a wider movement towards equity and I am proud to be part of it.

Three additional independent figures have also joined the Group, providing knowledge and guidance: Kelly Simmons, Sport Consultant and Board Advisor; Jane Purdon, Director and Consultant in both Football and Rugby; and Deborah Dilworth, Head of Women’s Football at the FSA.

In her review, Carney outlined the importance of raising minimum standards, specifically looking at salaries, training facilities and mental and physical wellbeing. During the meeting, NewCo and the FA are expected to outline the initial steps they are taking to deliver a fully professional environment. 

Alongside driving progress in women’s football, the Government is committed to raising standards across all women’s sport. Sports Minister Stuart Andrew yesterday chaired the first Board of Women’s Sport meeting, bringing industry leaders and academics together. 

The Board will connect relevant leaders from across women’s sport to share insights and look at future opportunities to help women’s sport continue to grow in a sustainable way, with a particular focus on the elite and professional levels. 

Sports Minister Stuart Andrew said:

It has been brilliant to see women and girls’ sport on an upward trajectory for the past few years, but we know there is more to be done. 

We have listened to recommendations in Karen’s Review and brought together key stakeholders from across women’s sport to share best practice on issues female athletes face. 

We want to create a shared vision across women and girls’ sport, helping it go from strength to strength. 

Attendees of the first meeting will include representatives from Sport England, UK Sport, UK Sports Institute, alongside experts from FIFA, The Concussion Research Forum and The Well HQ amongst others. Karen Carney MBE and Barbara Slater, Director of BBC Sport, will also join as independent members. The creation of the Board also comes as a recommendation from the Review of Women’s Football.

Discussion is expected to focus on the physical welfare of female athletes including issues such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries and concussion, as well as the impact of female health life stages on an athlete. 

Future meetings will focus on topics including sustainable investment in women’s sport and physical and mental health and support, helping create new opportunities and allow women’s sport to reach its full potential. 

This comes as the Review of Women’s Football highlighted the lack of cross-sport sharing of best practices around issues that impact elite female athletes. It has been estimated that only 6% of sport exercise and science research involves only women, demonstrating the significant need for research solely based on women.

Notes to editors

  • One of the recommendations in the Review of Women’s Football was for the Government to deliver on recent commitments around equal access to school sports for girls. Last week, the Department for Education published brand new guidance for schools to strengthen equal access to school sports and PE.
  • The new guidance provides inspiration for schools to offer all pupils inclusive and high-quality sport and demonstrates how schools can remove barriers to participation in PE, such as by building relationships with local and national sport bodies.
  • Membership of Women’s Football Review Implementation Group: Mark Bullingham, CEO, The Football Association (FA); Baroness Sue Campbell, Director of Women’s Football, The Football Association (FA); Nikki Doucet, CEO, NewCo; Clare Sumner, Chief Policy and Corporate Affairs Officer, Premier League; Maheta Molango, CEO, Professional Footballers Association (PFA); Rick Parry, Chairman, English Football League (EFL); Ken Scott, Interim CEO, Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA); Patrick Brosnan, Strategic Lead, Sport England; Robert Sullivan, CEO, Football Foundation; Matthew Hopkinson, DD, Department for Education; Deborah Dilworth, Head of Women’s Football, Football Supporters Association (FSA), member of the panel of experts for the Review of Women’s Football; Karen Carney MBE, ex-professional, Chair of the Review, sports pundit; Kelly Simmons OBE, Sport Consultant and Board Advisor; Jane Purdon, Director and Consultant in Football and Rugby. 
  • Membership of Board of Women’s Sport: Hazel McCluskey, Strategic Lead Business Transformation, Sport England; Stuart Pickering, Head of Performance Partnerships, UK Sport; Matt Archibald, National Director, UK Sports Institute; Dr Pippa Bennett, Director of Clinical Governance, UK Sports Institute; Dr Jaideep Gupte, Director of Research, Strategy and Innovation (Arts and Humanities Research Council), UK Research & Innovation; Fiona Semple, Athlete Support Manager, British Elite Athletes Association; Liz Bloor, Chair of the PPF Women’s Sport Committee, Professional Players Federation; Jo Maher, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Sport, Loughborough University; Karen Carney MBE, Former professional footballer and Chair of the Review of Women’s Football; Barbara Slater, Director of Sport, BBC; Tammy Parlour, CEO, Women’s Sport Trust; Fran Connolly, CEO, England Netball; Alex Teasdale, Women’s Game Director, England Rugby; Kay Cossington, Women’s Technical Director, Football Association; Tommy Yule, Head of Performance, UK Athletics; Jon Dutton, CEO, British Cycling; Dr Rob Buckle, Chair, Concussion Research Forum; Baz Moffat, CEO, The Well HQ; Nadine Kessler, Managing Director of Women’s Football, UEFA; Belinda Wilson, Senior Technical Development Manager Women’s Football, FIFA; Georgie Bruinvels, PHD research scientist and female athlete lead, Orreco; Marian Holliday, Deputy Director of Women’s Health, Department of Health and Social Care.
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