Women in sport: England may not be in the European final today, but the future of football is female

As many women will be playing football as men in five years. And in every field of sport, they are beginning to beat them at their own games

The future of football is female. As three million viewers prepare to tune into the final of the European Womens' Football championships today, star figures in the game have their eyes on a much bigger prize: an all-women revolution for the so-called beautiful game.

While England's women may have already been knocked out of the tournament,The Independent on Sunday can reveal today plans backed by the Football Association to capitalise on the success of Euro 2005 and eventually bring seven million girls to the game. The spearhead will be a massive marketing campaign, which includes sending British footballing stars to schools.

But footballing for girls has a momentum of its own. In 2003 there were 4,820 female football clubs, more than double the number in 2002. Now there are 8,000 with 131,378 affiliated players. If the figures continue to double, the girls will match the boys' number of 40,000 clubs in five years.

In an exclusive interview with the IoS, Sir Trevor Brooking, the former England star who is now the FA's director of football development, called on the Government to back these efforts to promote the game to women with a massive cash injection.

"We're trying to improve the coaching at grassroots level," said Sir Trevor. "But we suffer from a lack of investment in things like training pitches and changing rooms. We need £2bn."

But football aside, women are making huge strides in conventional male sports. For more than a century they lagged far down the field in terms of both spectators and performance, but they have shown such a phenomenal improvement rate over the past 50 years that they are now almost on a par with men.

Analysis of statistics over the past 50 years reveals they are hitting much harder, running much faster and leaping much higher than ever before. Paula Radcliffe can beat any British man in the marathon and is faster than the 1954 male world-record holder, Jim Peters.

Even the testosterone-fuelled world of motor racing is not immune. Danica Patrick, the only woman in elite motor sport, led the field in last month's gruelling Indianapolis 500 in the US, eventually finishing fourth.

Interest in women's sport is also on the rise. More than 22 million American television viewers watched Jane Couch, Britain's top female boxer, in her recent title fight.

Sports scientists say the vast improvement in women's achievement - Radcliffe's marathon record is a full hour faster than the women's 1967 record, while the men have shaved just five minutes in that time - is put down to changes in society.

Sarah Rowell, a sports scientist at the English Institute of Sport, said: "Over the past 20 to 30 years women have been able to train and get the same support services that men have had for longer."

But sports fans hoping for the day when men and women will compete together are going to be disappointed. England winger Rachel Yankey said the women's game has to be seen as different to the men's.

"I'm one of the quick ones, but I can't get past a 16-year-old boy."

Additional research by Aline Nassif

The runners

Paula Radcliffe

Age: 31 Country: UK

Fastest time: Marathon world record of two hours, 15 minutes, 25 seconds

Medals: Gold in the 5,000m at Commonwealth games and in the 10,000m at the European Championships in 2002


Paul Tergat

Age: 36 Country: Kenya

Fastest time: Marathon world record of two hours, four minutes, 55 seconds

Medals: Silver in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics in the 10,000m

The football players

Rachel Yankey

Age: 25

The most capped player in the England squad, and the first Englishwoman to turn professional, she has been named the International Player of the Year. Has sponsorship deals with Nike and Umbro. "I don't think there is much difference between the skills of men and women," she says. "But in speed and power, men just have the advantage."


Steven Gerrard

Age: 25

European Cup winner and Liverpool captain. Made his England debut in 2000 and an automatic choice for the first team. One of the most coveted players in the world, he is currently wanted by Spanish giants Real Madrid.

The golfers

Michelle Wie

Age: 15 Country: US

First PGA tour: Aged 14

Performance: Shot 72-68 in two rounds of the Sony Open, finishing two under par. Missed the cut by one stroke

Average drive: 271 yards


Tiger Woods

Age: 29 Country: US

First PGA tour: Aged 16

Performance: Shot 72-75 in two rounds of the Nissan Los Angeles open. Missed the cut by six strokes

Average drive: 299 yards

The tennis players

Venus Williams

Age: 25 Country: US

Height: 6ft 1in

Serve: World record 127.4mph

Highest world ranking: One

Singles titles: 32

Career prize money: $14,815,188


Andy Roddick

Age: 22 Country: US

Height: 6ft 2in

Serve: World record 155mph

Highest world ranking: One

Singles titles: 18

Career prize money: $8,399,951

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine