Eastbourne mother calls for equal opportunities for female football players

An Eastbourne mother has called for young female football players to be given the same opportunities as males.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 3:27 pm

An Eastbourne mother has called for young female football players to be given the same opportunities as males.

Danielle Atkinson said she believes there are more opportunities for young boys to be scouted - after taking her daughter Xhevrije to tournaments across the county.

The mother of 10 said, “There are always boy scouts looking for boys. There is never anybody looking for girls.

Xhevrije Atkinson SUS-210212-151101001

“There really doesn’t seem to be much out there for girls at all.”

Miss Atkinson said she believes there should be more scouts open to finding female talent.

The St Anthony’s Avenue resident said her daughter, who plays for Eastbourne Borough Black U10s, often goes to tournaments where there are no scouts looking for girls.

She said, “There will be scouts there but they will be looking for boys. There won’t be one person there looking for girls.

“There is a lot of talent out there. It is just hard.”

Lewes FC is a Sussex club that is known for its work in women’s football.

Lewes has received national recognition for its work in the women’s game and claims to be the first gender equal football club in the world.

Stuart Fuller, who is a director at the club, said, “The pathway for the men’s and women’s game are quite different, and although that could be seen as a negative – it could also be seen as a positive with the right support and development structures from our governing bodies.

“One thing that is certain is that the support, resources and focus being given to the women’s game is increasing every year.

“English football has a deep history and tradition, and for the women’s game to be able to develop the pathway specific and fit for purpose for the women’s game is actually quite an opportunity for women’s football.

“With this amazing opportunity comes massive responsibility from The FA, clubs, management, directors, coaches, administrators, referees and volunteers alike.”

Mr Fuller said clubs need to design, lead and educate specifically for the needs of young females across England and to not just ‘copy and paste’ the men’s game and the Premier League model.

He added, “It is also important that the pathway is designed with the specific objectives of females as well as young footballers.

“A key way to change this is to ensure the women’s game can support viable professional salaries for players and staff, which could easily be addressed in the equal prize money debate.

“One example in the FA Cup, the women’s game third round proper winner gets £1,250 (costing the club money to participate in the match), versus the men’s winner at the same stage gets £82,000.

“When scouts can lead a professional lifestyle in the women’s game, they can focus their attention 100 per cent to developing themselves as professional scouts for the women’s game.

“This requires dedication and specific understanding and development.”

Mr Fuller said these decisions to ‘professionalise’ the women’s game lands with the world governing bodies, regional confederations, national federations and clubs who can invest with an equal and professional development mindset and ethos.

The director said, “We have a lot of work to do, but it starts with viewing the women’s game as its own unique industry, and structuring our development, prize money, and professionalisation processes to ensure it is fit for purpose in developing professional females on and off the pitch who can then grow into leaders specifically for the women’s game.

“With that, scouting and development will become specific and focused on the female game.

“Here at Lewes FC we take equality and the professionalisation of the game very seriously. We committed to equal playing budgets for our first teams in 2017 and within a year both our first team sides had earned promotion.

“Our next phase is to create a pathway for young talent that not only provides an exemplary coaching environment but also creates a learning environment that provides all students with skills and education over and above that of other programmes.”

Lewes FC recently hired a new head of performance, Kelly Lindsey, to help the club with development strategies.

Mr Fuller said, “Kelly and the entire technical staff and performance staffs on both the men’s and women’s sides are currently going through conversations and workshops to align their expansive expertise across men’s and women’s football to create a three–six year strategy and new elite development model for the club, so we can be the leader in developing players around Sussex and beyond.”