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Lionesses Secure Victory Off The Pitch

The England women’s football team made the nation proud last summer when they won the European Championships. It was the first time in history that England had won the tournament, and afterwards, they set out to boost sporting opportunities for young girls around the country.

Just days after winning the European Championships at Wembley, an open letter was sent to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss signed by all 23 members of the squad. Truss and Sunak were, at the time, battling to become the new leader of the Conservative party and consequentially the Prime Minister.

The letter stated that the team wanted to create “a legacy and inspire a nation” and that winning the Euros was “only the beginning.” They added:

“We are looking to the future. We want to create real change in this country and we are asking you to help us achieve that change. We want every young girl in the nation to be able to play football at school.

Currently, only 63 percent of girls can play football in PE lessons. The reality is we are inspiring young girls to play football, only for many to end up going to school and not being able to play. This is something we all experienced growing up so we made our own teams, travelled across the country and despite the odds, kept playing football.

We ask you and your government to ensure that all girls have access to a minimum of two hours a week of PE. Not only should we be offering football all girls, but we also need to invest in and support female teachers too.”

Mission accomplished

Now, seven months after the letter was penned, the Lionesses’ request has been granted by Rishi Sunak’s government. In a new package of measures released by the government today, girls are set to be granted equal access to ALL school sports, not just football.

Schools across the country are now going to be required to deliver at least two hours of PE each week and girls and boys will partake in the same sports in lessons and extra-curricular clubs.

The measures will be backed by over £600m in funding over the next two academic years starting in September 2023. The quality of PE and sports in primary schools is to be the main focus as many girls, historically, have been pushed away from sports at a young age.

The announcement, which coincides with International Women’s Day, comes after the data obtained by the Liberal Democrats suggested that the government were taking measures to neglect sporting opportunities rather than enhance them.

The Lib Dems found that 94 schools had sold their playing field over the past eight years with the government being held responsible for allowing that to happen. However, the announcement today does show an appetite to dispel this theory.

Leaving a lasting legacy

Almost from the instant the final whistle went at Wembley last July, the Lionesses have been talking about their desire to leave a lasting legacy behind. After today’s government announcement, the Lionesses captain, Leah Williamson, said:

“The success of the summer has inspired so many young girls to pursue their passion for football. We see it as our responsibility to open the doors for them to do so and this announcement makes that possible. This is the legacy that we want to live much longer than us as a team.”

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, added:

“Last year the Lionesses’ victory changed the game. Young girls know when they take to the pitch that football is for them and, thanks to the Lionesses, they too could be a part of the next generation to bring it home for their country.”

Final thought

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, was unable to act on the initial letter sent by the Lionesses last year as he lost out to Liz Truss in the battle for number ten. However, after taking over from Truss not long after he has evidently made an effort to seize on the opportunity presented to him by the England women’s national football team.

It seems astonishing that children weren’t already required to undertake two hours of PE per week especially when you consider one in three children in the UK are currently classed as overweight or obese. A regular exercise routine for all children should be promoted, not just for the physical health benefits, but also for mental health.

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