The Rise of Women's and Girl's Football in Elmbridge
By Nick Metcalfe
Across the UK, women and girls are playing football in ever increasing numbers. The Football Association estimates there are 3.4m female players in England, representing a doubling of female participation in just 3 years. The profile of women’s football looks set to grow further with the Team GB squad competing at the Tokyo Olympics and next year, England and Northern Ireland will compete in the Women's European Championships taking place right on our doorstep with four venues across London & the South East.
Across Elmbridge this story of increased participation is repeated. There are now more than a dozen clubs based in the borough offering fun, competitive football for girls aged 8 to 18 playing in the Surrey County Women's & Girls League.
So, if your daughter dreams of becoming the next Fran Kirby or Ellen White what options are available locally? Well, a number of clubs, such as Met Police, Claygate Royals and Walton Casuals are part of the FA’s Wildcats programme which offers a fun taste of football for girls aged 5-11 who want to give the sport a go for the very first time and to play with other girls their own age (away from those annoying boys!)
Other clubs run their own programmes introducing younger girls to the sport. Walton & Hersham Youth FC host their own weekly Mini-Academy for kids aged 5-10 who want to develop their skills and potentially progress into the club’s boys’ and girls’ teams. These have always been mixed, but from this September, the club will start dedicated girls sessions. Head coach of the girl’s section and UEFA B qualified coach Vicky Wright told yourElmbridge, ‘Although many girls do attend the current Mini-Academy sessions on a Saturday morning, I’m really excited at the prospect of giving as many young girls as possible the chance to play football in a fun and welcoming environment’.
But what about adult female players? Until recently, options in Elmbridge were limited. Then, in the summer of 2018 Walton Casuals FC launched a senior women's team, Walton Casuals Ladies. Open trials were attended by more than 100 players, resulting in a squad of young, talented players, many from within the borough.
Based at the impressive Elmbridge Sport Hub facility, alongside Walton Casuals and Walton & Hersham’s senior men’s teams, they have stormed through the Greater London Women's Football League and next season will take up a place in the London & South East Women's Regional Football League, theoretically just five promotions from elite teams such as Chelsea and Manchester City. The first team is backed by reserve and development squads, offering a pathway for young players to develop and progress.
Over the last 12 months the growth in female football continued as Elmbridge welcomed its second senior women’s club with the formation of Molesey Ladies FC. So, for the 2021-22 season, opportunities for women and girls to play football in Elmbridge have never been better, why not see what’s on offer at your nearest club?