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Women’s Euros kick off at Manchester School with a visit from the Chair of the FA

The visit coincided with the UEFA Women’s Euros 2022.

The first female Chair of the Football Association, Debbie Hewitt MBE and Karen Bardsley, (former England Women’s Team and Manchester City goalkeeper) visited a Manchester school yesterday to talk about the importance of grassroots girls’ football. 

The visit coincided with the UEFA Women’s Euros 2022. Manchester is one of the host cities for the competition, and part of UEFA and The FA’s new Legacy Programme. The visit aimed to promote equal access to football and gave the chance for the talented students to meet their role-models. 

Nationally, only 63% of schools offer equal football access to boys and girls. Co-op Academy Manchester is bucking that trend, with a huge number of girls enjoying football in their lessons and also taking part in after-school clubs – something The FA is keen to see in more schools.  

Debbie Hewitt, Chair of The FA said: “It has been fantastic to visit the Co-op Academy and see first-hand the enthusiasm and enjoyment the girls have for playing the game. The excitement around the Women’s Euros was clear to see and sessions like these provide a brilliant opportunity to inspire more girls from all backgrounds to get involved in playing football. The Academy are helping play a key role in ensuring that the Euros will leave a lasting legacy for the future of the women’s and girls’ game in England.”

Football superstar Karen Bardsley, said “I think it’s really important to make sure that the people at the top are showing their enthusiasm – like Debbie being here today – showing players that we believe what they’re doing is important. The dinosaurs are still in the game and they need to catch up. When you see young school students and how enthusiastic they are about the future, we need to be part of that.”

Hayley Heslop, PE Teacher at Co-op Academy Manchester, said of the visit, “to have an ex-England goalkeeper and the female Head of the FA on our pitch is absolutely fantastic. I could see the girls were putting in 110% effort in their training today, keen to impress our guests.” 

Co-op Academy Manchester’s girls teams have had a great season, winning local competitions including the Manchester Schools Football Cup with the Year 7 team coming first and the Year 10 team second in the same tournament. Many of the girls also now play for local football teams. 

Doug Martin, who works with schools across the city for the Manchester PE Association was at Co-op Academy Manchester for the visit. He said, “we introduced a new programme called inspire and excel which is all about getting children involved in sport coming out of COVID; Co-op Academy Manchester joined in the first week. This opportunity for the FA to see what’s happening on the ground as well as the girls seeing their efforts being recognised as something special is just so important.”

The visit had a celebratory atmosphere, coming after England’s victorious first match in the Euros. As interest in the women’s sport has grown massively in recent years, this year’s event is sure to inspire a new generation of players for years to come.