NATIONAL TV coverage of the Women’s World Cup has helped increase the profile of women’s football, much to the delight of a senior lecturer at the University of Chester.
Campaigners are celebrating after the Football Association agreed to trial a new policy which would allow girls to play alongside their male peers until they are 14 years old.
Previous FA rules prevented girls from playing mixed football beyond the age of 11 and supporters said this hindered the development of the most talented players by relegating them to the sidelines and forcing them to compete at an inferior level.
The pilot, recommended by the FA Women’s Football Committee and approved by the FA Council, follows a drive to secure a better deal for female footballers.
Senior lecturer in sport coaching, Wendy Owen, is a long-term backer of the campaign.
A former England international and squad member for the country’s inaugural women’s international against Scotland in 1972, Wendy was one of the experts called to give evidence last year at a Parliamentary inquiry into the state of the women’s game.
She said: ‘Matching children for weight, height and ability should be the way forward, with players and coaches deciding themselves whether an individual should be playing mixed football.
‘Although this is only a trial, I believe it is a step in the right direction.’
Wendy became involved in the campaign after meeting one of the girls affected by the old rule, Hannah Dale, during a book-signing session to promote her autobiography, Kicking against Tradition: A Career in Women’s Football.
At the time, Hannah was approaching the age of 12 and was going to be prevented from playing for Warrington-based Crosfield Juniors, despite being one of the best players in the team.
Hannah’s father, Paul, sought support for the campaign from Warrington South MP, Helen Southworth, who sat on the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport.
After meeting Hannah and Paul, the Select Committee held the inquiry at which Wendy was invited to give evidence.