This new campaign aims to end unfair access to sporting facilities during the summer of women’s sport.
It’s an incredible time to celebrate female athletes as we ramp up for what is being dubbed the summer of women’s sport, with the Ashes, Euros and Rugby World Cup. But it’s also a good time to talk about why the majority of people who play and succeed in sports are men.
It’s a long-established fact that girls, women and non-binary people move less than men, with a knock-on impact on mental and physical health, for reasons that include fear of judgment, worries about menstruation and a lack of visibility and support to access sport.
In football, in particular, it’s been shown that one of the biggest barriers to participation for women, girls and non-binary players is access to pitch space and facilities. Yep, the inequalities go right down to the grass under their feet.
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It happens on a pro-level, with women’s clubs not playing in the same large, accessible stadiums as their male counterparts, often having grounds that are further away and with fewer seats for fans and spectators. And it happens in recreational football too, as access to pitches is often restricted by the existence of legacy bookings and unequal allocation to new teams.
In fact, research by Women in Sport shows that 59% of teenage girls who used to be interested in sports drop out due to inadequate opportunities and facilities. And is it a surprise? If you had to watch boys kicking about on well-lined pitches and floodlit grass while your team were told to run around on concrete, would you continue?
This is why a new campaign, Pitch, Please, by Adidas is so important. Throughout July, the brand has pledged to provide regular pitch access for women, girls, and non-binary players across London. Players will be able to request a session for their five, seven or nine-a-side teams through a WhatsApp booking service (on 07874 089145), with pitches available every Saturday and Sunday at Haggerston School and Fulham FC’s Motspur Park training facility. Over 100 hours of play will be available for women, girls and non-binary players during the Euros tournament.
The timing is crucial. Watching these large events is a huge motivator for many people to get out and get playing – but being turned away from pitches is a harsh way to burst the inspiration bubble. By making the dream of football a reality, this campaign is helping to level the playing field.
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It goes without saying that more needs to be done. Women, girls and non-binary people need access to pitches all season long. Given the historic exclusion from sports, diversifying participation means facilities can’t be based on a long-standing, first-come-first-served basis. At a grassroots level, everyone has a right to pitches under their feet, and professionals shouldn’t have to battle for spaces that serve them and their fans. With this year’s Euros set to be the biggest ever competition for women’s football, let’s hope it inspires legions of fans to flood to pitches – and for the industry to give them access.
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