The government’s announcement of more money directed to girls’ football isn’t what it seems…
The government has announced increased funding for girls’ football at schools. That’s good isn’t it? Well, it would be, but the headlines don’t tell the full story. Indeed, they don’t even tell a small part of it.
Anyone who thinks the increased funding is any more than a tiny gesture isn’t paying attention. Leah Williamson and Lottie Wubben-Moy got photo shoots on the back of it. Maybe they naively believe what the government is saying. Or maybe they’re just happy to take credit for it.
Earmarking what is, in the end, a very small allocation of the existing budget for girls’ PE is not the coup they clearly want us to think it is. For a start, this government has never believed in heavy auditing so their claim to make sure that the money will go where it is intended rings very hollow.
As does the commitment to after-school sports. At the moment this is entirely dependent on the goodwill of PE teachers currently in dispute with the government over their salaries so unless a far larger amount of money is provided to address that issue, it won’t happen. The government will claim they provided the money and blame the teachers. It’s a familiar tale. In truth, with the majority of schools in England currently in the red, headteachers will use any additional money to plug those gaps out of necessity.
The vast majority of primary schools now offer football to girls in PE lessons anyway. The shortfall comes when they reach secondary school so quite why so much of the money is being offered to pre-11 education is puzzling.
Yet one thing stands out above all this. Despite the headlines, there is no mention at all in the government statement that the money will specifically be used or football.
The job of developing top-class players is better not entrusted to schools anyway, but to the clubs with their already established academies and facilities.
This doesn’t need any public money, and indeed grants worth far more are available from the Premier League and Lottery Funding from Sports England for entirely these purposes. All the authorities need to do is ensure that football clubs have a realistic pathway to the top levels of the game and the sponsorship that comes with it. An expanded WSL would be the first step in achieving this and, in the process, we should cut down on the number of meaningless international tournaments that belong to a different era.
But, of course, that wouldn’t generate the right headlines, either for the government or the England captain.
If you like what you’ve read then please check out Mark’s novel, ‘Balls’ which is available here.
Photo: Sharon Cornish