Scottish FA Soccer Centres presented by SSE are proving to be a major hit across the country, following a landmark year for the Scotland Women’s National Team.
The Centres were first launched in the lead-up to UEFA Euro 2017, which marked the first time that the Scotland Women’s National Team had qualified for a major tournament.
With centres across the six Scottish FA regions each appointed an ambassador from the SWNT, participants are presented with a tangible role model throughout their attendance.
Girls aged from five to twelve are able to attend one of the 54 centres nationwide, with the programme having seen a substantial increase in popularity in the 12 months of operation so far.
“In 2017 there were 12,356 registered female players in the game, with 43% of those coming from Under 12s” said Donald Gillies, Head of Women’s and Girls’ Football at the Scottish FA.
“That age group also saw an increase of 1180 players from 2016 which is a fantastic number to grow the game in 12 months.
“It’s just a glimpse into the potential that the girls’ and women’s game has, and the Soccer Centres presented by SSE are a driving force in this area. Delivery partners are delighted to be part of the project and it’s providing a fantastic first step for girls to learn about and enjoy the game.”
Nearly 400 new participants have attended a soccer centre across Scotland in the nine months of 2018 to date. One such group benefitting from the Scottish FA Soccer Centres, presented by SSE, are the pupils at Fintry Primary School, a centre for which Lisa Evans is the ambassador. The centre will hold a session during UEFA Grassroots Week, which will see a celebration of grassroots programmes across the country.
John Cairney, head coach at the centre, is enthusiastic about the benefits of grassroots participation to young female footballers.
“The centres are so good for the social development of the girls, and their self-confidence – I’ve seen the girls grow so much in such a short space of time” he said.
“They bring new players together and allow the girls to make new friends. The festivals are great and the girls get the experience of playing against other teams.”
With Women’s and Girls Sport Week following hot on the heels of UEFA Grassroots Week, the programme offers a significant opportunity to highlight the benefits of football to young girls across Scotland.
Arsenal and Scotland winger Evans, who recently played her part in the SWNT’s historic qualification for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, is hopeful that the centres – and the success of the senior side – will continue to boost participation amongst the potential future stars of the national side.
“These centres have been a fantastic addition to Scottish football,” she said.
“They provide young girls around the country with the chance to develop both as players and as people. I wish they’d been around when I was starting out in football.
“To be an ambassador for the programme is a real honour – there was a lot of talk throughout the World Cup qualifying campaign about inspiring a nation, and this is definitely one way of doing so.”