MID and East Antrim Borough Council has agreed to play its part in promoting, supporting and facilitating more girls and women to take up football.
A Notice of Motion tabled by Cllr Marc Collins, which was agreed at this month’s Full Council meeting, also asked that the “under-representation” of females in local clubs be recognised.
As a Volunteer Coach with Carrick Rangers Football Club, Cllr Collins said he has seen “at first hand” the difficulties which exist in encouraging girls and women to play the sport.
“Carrick Rangers, as far as I’m aware, currently offers the biggest Youth Academy set-up in the borough, with over 600 young people taking part in training sessions and matches through the respective teams every week,” he continued.
“However, out of those 600-plus young people, only around 50 are female. Unfortunately, it is a similar story when we look at other clubs in the borough.
“Ballymena United have around 100 girls in their 400-strong Academy and Larne FC, who have the largest number of female players, have just over 100.
“While those figures are only for our three biggest clubs, it is a similar vein throughout all of the clubs in the borough.”
Cllr Collins continued:
“Back in 2019, Carrick Rangers FC were one of only two teams in Northern Ireland to be invited to Windsor Park for the launch of the new IFA Women and Girls in Football Strategy, which aims to double female participation in football by 2024 and I believe this Council can play its part in helping to achieve this.
“I am asking that Council agree to work with our three main football teams in developing a social media campaign to encourage more women and young girls to get involved in the sport, as well as exploring the possibility of opening up a specific funding stream for female football teams, to help boost the profile of teams within our borough.”
Former Deputy Mayor Cllr Cheryl Johnston seconded the motion and pointed to successful efforts by UEFA in developing creative and innovative ways to put women’s football ‘firmly on the map’.
“Female participation in sport is now at a record high here in Northern Ireland with numbers rising by 25% in the last two years and that includes more than 4,500 hours of football played by girls as young as four according to statistics from the IFA and Electric Ireland,” Cllr Johnston explained.
“The benefits of sport cannot be underestimated and I will in any way I can continue to promote sport to the people I meet.”