Knottingley at centre of bid to boost girls football participation

Leeds United RTC girls in a fixture against Manchester City RTC on their famous blue 3G pitch.
Leeds United RTC girls in a fixture against Manchester City RTC on their famous blue 3G pitch.

Wakefield and Selby districts are the most under-represented region of West Yorkshire for female teams, but changes are afoot that are aiming to reverse this.

There are two girls leagues in the county – The West Riding Girls League and the Harrogate Girls League. The WRGFL is the biggest of the two with almost 150 teams and over 1,000 players . For the last two seasons they have provided a free to enter indoor gala for under 7s and 8s as a way of introducing younger girls to football as historically, girls teams have generally started at the under 10 age group.

These galas have been a massive success with almost 30 teams now playing from under 7s to under 9s this season.

The WRGFL has now done a deal to play all of its galas at the A1 Football Factory, in Knottingley and for three Saturdays each month between 10am and 12pm the centre will be a hive of activity for girls football.

The A1 will be using their links with NEW College, Pontefract to draft in female students to help run the galas and in exchange the girls league will provide them with free places on a female only junior football leaders course.

On top of this the FA has 34 centres of excellence for girls around the country known as RTC’s (Regional Talent Club), which is the England talent pathway for girls.

The nearest RTC is Leeds United and they have based all of their training sessions at De Lacy Academy, in Knottingley.

Steve Conboy, the West Riding County FA’s women and girls development officer, is looking to boost participation of girls playing football in the area.

He said: “Along with some Featherstone residents I set up a club in April and made it our priority to create a girls team.

“Working in partnership with local primary schools, we now have two girls teams at under 8s and under 9s so I would like to think we have proven that this is not impossible to do.

“October 10 to 16 is the FA’s Girls Football Week when they will be asking clubs, schools and private organisations to log any girls football activity so that they can showcase the amount of girls playing football in the country.

“During this week I plan to visit lots of schools in the area to run girls only sessions linking in with the clubs in the local area with the intention of those clubs creating girls teams.”