Earlier this month the England women's football team won the Cyprus Cup for the second time, beating Canada in the final 1-0, in the latest in a series of recent successes for the team. Since 2007, they've have reached the UEFA Women's European Championship final, two FIFA Women's World Cup quarter-finals and, as part of Team GB, an Olympic Games quarter-final.
The popularity of the women's game has grown remarkably over the past 10 years, demonstrating a change in attitude and culture around the female version of the game. This is backed up by findings revealed this month that shows the number of registered girls' football teams has grown in the past decade by 15% in England. These figures are also on the rise in Wales, with an increase of 27% in girls' teams since 2002. To me, this seems like one of the most significant changes in the game at grassroots level in recent years.
These encouraging statistics are from the Ten Years of Teamwork report, which was commissioned by McDonald's to mark the tenth anniversary of their Community Partnerships with the four UK Football Associations. The report set out to review what has been achieved over the last 10 years in the grassroots game and to understand which areas can be developed further.
It was compiled by Senior Research Associate Dr Steven Bradbury and Professor Barrie Houlihan of the Institute of Sport at Loughborough University and as part of the research the authors spoke to dozens of people from the football associations, governing bodies, grassroots football teams and other volunteers in order to put together an in-depth review at a decade of football in communities across the UK.
I've had the honour of being McDonald's Director of Football for the past 10 years, working closely with the FAs, and the biggest change I've seen in the grassroots game during that time has certainly been the girls' game. There are now more female coaches, players and volunteers than ever before, which is fantastic to see and something which is set to improve standards right up to the national game.
One story which still sticks in my mind was back in 2002, when I attended a Level 1 FA coaching course with several female journalists. Many of those who attended told me that when growing up they were never encouraged to play football, and a couple were even barred from taking part in the game! That was a real eye opener.
These days the situation couldn't be more different. Grassroots football clubs are doing a fantastic job of getting more girls involved in the sport through community initiatives, after school clubs and improved coaching. Girls' football at grassroots level looks set to continue to grow, as the findings in the Ten Years of Teamwork report show, and that can only be a good thing for the game as a whole.
It's not just the girls' game that's flourished in recent years; Ten Years of Teamwork also revealed that 74% of children's and youth teams at FA Charter Standard clubs can boast at least one qualified Level 1 coach - an increase of 73% since 2001 - with the overall number now at around 56,000. This in turn has led to an increase in the boys' youth teams, up 7% since 2002.
In Scotland, nearly 400 clubs have been awarded Scottish FA Quality Mark status since 2006 - an accreditation scheme designed to support and recognise the work of clubs who help drive high standards and increase the development of players, coaches and volunteers. What's more, in Northern Ireland, more than 700 newly qualified coaches have come through the Irish FA and McDonald's programme since 2002.
I'm proud of what the McDonald's and FA Community Partnerships have achieved over the past decade, and I hope we will all begin to see the benefits of the programme across all football levels, from grassroots to international, in the years to come.
The full Ten Years of Teamwork report can be downloaded here: http://tinyurl.com/d5tnwhg
For more information on McDonald's grassroots programmes visit www.mcdonalds.co.uk/kickstart or follow McDonald's grassroots football on twitter: @2013Grassroots
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