Women's Football

SSE Girls Sport Participation survey


Younger mothers and fathers embrace football revolution for girls according to SSE Girls Sport Participation survey.

More girls in the UK are being encouraged into football thanks to a positive shift in attitude among parents, says new research conducted by SSE.

The first ‘SSE Girls Sport Participation survey’, published today, reveals that younger parents in particular are leading the way in promoting the beautiful game to their daughters.

Exploring parental attitudes to sport and football as well as participation and encouragement, the survey shows UK mums and dads are increasingly enthusiastic about their daughters playing football, going to see a professional match or even enjoying a career in the sport. 

A recurring theme was the role that younger parents, those aged 40 and under, already play and suggests a new generation of mums and dads can lead the way in driving the future participation of girls in football.

The full report can be found here.

Among the key findings are:

  • Being part of a team and increased physical fitness are the benefits for girls of playing football most cited by parents (both 78%)
  • Dads are generally happier than Mums for their daughters to pursue playing, coaching or administration careers in football, with younger parents more comfortable than older peers
  • When it comes to football careers being achievable for daughters it is younger parents who are more likely to agree. While Dads are more comfortable, when it comes to feeling achievable it is Mums who are most likely to agree that (with talent) there should be no limits to progress
  • Younger (under the age of 40) parents are most likely to agree that they would take their daughter to a women’s professional game (38% of younger Dads strongly agree) and to a men’s professional game (39% of younger Dads strongly agree)
  • Younger Mums are most likely to disagree that ‘Football is a sport for boys’
  • Age 5-7 is the sweet spot for girls to take up football. 53% of girls currently playing football first started at this age. 

The survey was commissioned by SSE, the energy behind women’s football, who currently sponsor the SSE Women’s FA Cup and SSE Scottish Women’s Cup as well as delivering Girls’ Participation Programmes in both England and Scotland.

The findings are particularly timely as Scotland and England’s women’s teams prepare for the 2019 Women’s World Cup qualifiers taking place next week.


Colin Banks, SSE Head of Sponsorship and Reward, said:

“At SSE we’re passionate about women’s football and the growth of girls participating in the beautiful game, as demonstrated by our longstanding partnerships with the FA and Scottish FA and our many grassroots programmes.

“Our first ever SSE Girls Sport Participation survey is a powerful indication that this passion is shared by hundreds of thousands of parents across the country. It has revealed a step change in the attitudes parents have towards football in the context of their daughters playing, watching and working in the sport and significantly this is being driven by a new generation of younger mums and dads.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for us all to work together to further establish football to be as accessible and fun for young people as we can, removing any barriers which girls may have faced in the past. Parents can be a hugely positive force behind this and SSE has a genuine desire and commitment to support them in helping their daughters enjoy football and all the benefits that brings.”


Joe FitzPatrick, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, said:

“It is encouraging to see the increased enthusiasm of parents for their daughters to participate in sport generally and in football in particular. The benefits of sport and physical activity are clear through improved physical and mental health and confidence.

“The Scottish Government strongly supports women and girls’ football, and I am determined to see the game grow at all levels. I particularly want to see more girls playing. However, there continue to be challenges, particularly in encouraging older girls to take up football or continue in the sport. We will carefully consider these findings with the Scottish FA and other partners and ensure we do all we can to get more girls playing.”


Gavin Newlands, SNP Westminster Spokesperson for Sport, said:

“This is greatly encouraging research suggesting more girls are playing football than ever before, in large part due to much greater enthusiasm from parents for their daughters taking up the game.

“There is clear evidence that young girls aged 15 and under are less likely to take part in physical activities than boys and therefore we all need to do more to encourage girls to become involved in sports like football.

“Becoming active and involved in sport helps to improve your health and fitness levels. Parents have an important role in encouraging children to become involved in sport, not only making sure they enjoy the full range of benefits that sport brings, but because it’s fun!”


Baroness Sue Campbell CBE, Director of Women’s Football, said:

“The findings of the survey demonstrate the importance of programmes such as SSE Wildcats, which have been designed to introduce 5-11-year-old girls into football and in any cases will kick-start a life-long relationship with the game. 

“It is also great to see that parents are now seeing football as a potential career for their daughters, whether that be on or off the pitch. The FA Women’s Super League, our top tier of women’s football kicks off on Sunday 9 September as Europe’s only fully professional league.

“We hope many young girls will be inspired by these role models, with aspirations to one day emulate their success, be that as a player or in many of the supportive roles available such as a coach, nutritionist, physiotherapist or referee, just to name a few. 

“With the support of SSE we look forward to growing girl’s and women’s football in line with our ‘Gameplan for Growth’ strategy, which sees us strive to double both participation and the fanbase by 2020.”


Donald Gillies, Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football at the Scottish FA, said:

“We greatly welcome the findings of this research as it corroborates and expands on the direction of development we are taking the girls’ and women’s game in Scotland along with our partners at SSE. We aim to speak to parents to tell them how welcoming and nurturing football can be for their daughters and that it can provide an environment that will benefit them for a lifetime.

“Having the support of key stakeholders like SSE in conducting research, telling the story and bringing the opportunities to life through initiatives like the SSE Soccer Centres provides Scotland’s communities with great faith that when they provide more for the Girls’ and Women’s game they are contributing to an incredibly worthwhile and valuable area that will deliver positive outcomes for females in football, in their careers and in their lives”

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