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Camden Sports - by STEVE BARNETT
Published: 6 August 2009

Spreading the word: Kirsty Pealling (right) demonstrates a sure touch to Diane Culligan (left) and Lily Labonte-Hurst at Cantelowes Gardens
The beautiful game for girls

International star campaigns to attract more young ladies to league football

A FORMER England international, the chairman of one of the biggest youth clubs in the country, and a top sports development officer have teamed-up in a bid to get more young girls playing football.
Ex-Arsenal Ladies star Kirsty Pealling, Diane Culligan from Hampstead Football Club and Lily Labonte-Hurst from the Winchester Project in Swiss Cottage are united by the same goal.
Dubbed the Three Degrees, they want to get more young women involved in the beautiful game and believe they have developed the perfect three-tier programme to help make it happen.
First they plan to start visiting schools, where their main aim will be to encourage PE teachers to introduce more girls-only football sessions. They will also make sure that potential players know all about the regular training sessions and leagues that are available to them.
Providing they are successful in leading girls back to the pitch, their next step is to keep them there by holding regular tournaments and getting youngsters used to the competitive side of football.
The final part of the puzzle will be to encourage players to form teams and play in competitive leagues on a weekly basis.
With almost 100 female players on the books, Hampstead Football Club already boasts six teams playing in the Home Counties League. But this coming season, the club has been forced to axe the under-16s side because of a lack of players.
Eager to turn around the numbers, Diane said: “We’re told that women’s football is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, but I think you have to take that statement with a pinch of salt. How are they measuring that? It’s all very well counting the girls attending the odd session now and then, but are they staying in the game and going on to play regularly in leagues?”
She added: “If anything, the numbers seem to be dropping off and that’s a major concern. Over the past few season’s a number of our girls have gone on to join semi-professional sides like Arsenal, Watford and Queen’s Park Rangers.
“It’s a great compliment for us to know we’re able to produce girls who are good enough to play at that level. The problem is that we’re not getting the numbers we need to replace them.”
Kirsty, who spent almost 20 years with Arsenal Ladies, feels another major factor is because female role models are not given enough media attention.
“England’s under-19s won the European Women’s Championships last week, but not many would have heard about that because there wasn’t much coverage in the press. When it comes to sport, female role models rarely get much coverage in the media, and never appear on the back pages.
“Our main aim is to make sure that any girls who want to play football are being given the right information.
“We need to do more than just send out a leaflet, we need to get into schools and speak to the girls directly and let them know about all the opportunities that are available for them.”

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