Football: Banks seeks equality

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The Independent Online
TONY BANKS, the Minister for Sport, said yesterday that issues of sexual equality urgently needed to be addressed or women's sport will never prosper.

"Women's sport generally needs more encouragement," Banks said at the launch of Women's Football Awareness Week. "Sport is excessively male- dominated in this country - from those who distribute finance, to administrators, to those who report on sport. Male dominance is something that needs to be addressed."

Awareness Week, which runs from tomorrow until 20 June, aims to attract thousands of women and girls to try football for the first time, and more than 2,000 people are expected to take part in 10 regional festivals around the country.

Sitting alongside David Davies, the executive director of the Football Association, Banks called on the FA to make greater efforts to promote the women's game. Of the women's FA Cup final in May, and the finale of the women's Premier League season, both of which he attended, Banks said: "They were fairly low-key events. The FA and the football authorities have to do more to raise their profile."

Talking about the women's World Cup finals, which will be played in the United States this summer - a tournament England failed to qualify for and which the hosts are likely to start as favourites - he added: "You have to ask why a country with no tradition of success in the men's game is so successful in the women's." The answer, he said, was promotion of the game at all levels, and US laws which dictate equal funding for men and women.

"In 1990, we had less than 80 girls' teams in the UK," said Kelly Simmons, the FA women's football co-ordinator. "Today there are over 1,000 youth teams, 700 women's teams and some 34,000 registered players. We hope this Awareness Week will raise the game's profile with the public at large."