How women levelled the playing field

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The Independent Online

There are an estimated 20,000 women players in Britain in 600 registered clubs. A growing number of football associations are setting up official girls' leagues and the first magazine dedicated to the sport is just being launched. A crowd of more than 76,000 watched the China-United States women's football final in Atlanta this summer - more than watched England play Germany in the Euro `96 semi-finals at Wembley.


The International Rugby Football Board has recognised the women's game as its fastest-growing sector worldwide. Last season, the Rugby Football Union for Women boasted 8,000 players, 500 coaches, 230 teams and 50 youth sides, as well as the launch of the Women's Home Nations Championship. There are plans for a women's Five Nations Championship. England have lost only one game since the team was formed in 1987.


Women's cricket is now a Sky sport and England are World Cup and European Cup holders. The Women's Cricket Association, founded 70 years ago, supports a full-time director, Scarborough's Centurion Daniels, and has 60 clubs. It runs a national league and knockout cup, together with competitions at Under-21 and Under-17 levels. Japan, Canada, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been recent additions to the sport's World Cup.