The Continuing Growth of Women’s Recreational Football (WRF) – August 2018

Around this time last year, I wrote a piece on the rise of women taking up the game at a later age, for fun and enjoyment.

At that time, there were approximately 15 teams, that we knew of, who had started up and were giving “older” women the chance to play.  Over the last year or so, the increase in participation, as well as the number of festivals, tournaments and friendlies for women who want to play recreationally, has increased dramatically.  Indeed, in Cheshire, there is now an “Inspire League” which is run by Cheshire FA, for Women’s Recreational teams to play against each other.

The FA People’s Cup is a prime example of how rapidly numbers are growing with only 6 teams in the Country entering the amateur Over 35s’ Women’s Competition in 2016, to 52 teams (figure from the FA) entering the same category, in 2018.  The FA and a number of County FAs have been extremely positive in promoting and holding events which will go some way to increasing the numbers for the FA’s target of doubling Women & Girls’ participation, by 2020. Add to that a number of Clubs, especially in Kent, who have been organising their own tournaments this year and you have a significant increase in the number of opportunities for women to play.  A number of EFL Club Community Trusts and Foundations are also working hard to support participation by delivering sessions, which give women the opportunity to just play, regardless of age or ability but there is still room for improvement!

Sussex CFA run WRF Festivals based on participation, Surrey CFA run WRF Tournaments and other CFAs are running programmes such as “Find Your Feet”, which has recently been set up through Hampshire FA.  Staffordshire FA have also been running a very successful programme #MumsPlayFootball, which is still growing.  All these projects are seeing hundreds of women enjoying playing, the majority of whom haven’t played before.  There is a long way to go but projects such as these are helping to increase participation and are giving women opportunities they didn’t have previously.  It just needs more CFAs and Professional Football Clubs to obtain funding for new projects to be delivered.  If there is anyone reading this who just wants to play, please contact your local County FA, EPL or EFL Club’s Community Department to ask them what provision they have for Women’s Recreational Football!  The opportunity for “older” women to play in recreational festivals/tournaments didn’t exist 3 years ago, so it’s encouraging to see how far WRF has come in such a short space of time.  Long may these increased opportunities continue to rise.


It will be interesting to see how the figures from the FA, in relation to Women & Girls Football for 2017/2018, increase next year.  Here’s hoping that we can quantify (somehow) how many women are now involved in the game, in a recreational capacity.

Source: The FA

Teams have also been set up with help from the Football Foundation through the “Grow the Game” grant, for an amount up to £1500, which can help with pitch, kit and coaching costs etc. The “Grow the Game” grant was specifically promoted, this year, to help female and disability teams set up. If you are a new team keep an eye out for when the scheme opens again.  Some of the details are below, so if you’re thinking about starting up a team, this is well worth a further look when the window opens again.


Grow the Game provides funding to contribute towards a combination of the following essential costs associated with providing new football activity:

  • Facility hire
  • Hire of FA qualified coaches
  • Referees fees
  • CRB checks
  • Affiliation fees
  • League entry
  • First aid kits
  • Promotion and publicity
  • FA coaching courses
  • Additional courses
  • Football kit/equipment through a bespoke voucher

Grant limits

Organisations are able to receive a grant of £1,500 per new team created over two or three years with financial support being reduced in the second or third year of the project.


Women’s Recreational Football has not only seen a significant increase in participation from “older” women (over 30), it has now moved on further and incorporates younger women who haven’t played before or who are unable to commit to play in Leagues, week in/week out.  Women who were involved in teams years ago are also coming back into the game, again, to play for fun and enjoyment.

It’s quite evident that plenty of women are extremely determined that they want to start playing and it appears that not only are these women being inspired to set up their own teams, they are also inspiring others to do the same!   Regardless of age, regardless of ability, regardless of size or shape, regardless of fitness level, Women’s Recreational Football really is #FORALL.  You don’t have to have any experience, just a willingness to have some fun, make new friends and gain some fitness along the way.  Not only does Women’s Recreational Football help with boosting health (mentally and physically) it enables you to gain confidence when you’re in a group of women who aren’t judging you for what you look like or whether you can play or not.  Having fun and feeling comfortable with a group of like-minded women encourages female empowerment and builds self-confidence.  It not only encourages “older” women but is now encouraging younger women, too.  We have seen first hand how, without exaggeration, learning to play football at a later age, can actually change someone’s life.  It’s not just the football side but the social side too, that helps women to grow in confidence.  You only have to look at photographs from team days and nights out to realise that there is a whole new world out there to enjoy old friendships and build new ones.

Recently, the Crawley Old Girls (COGS) held the first National Women’s Recreational (over 30s) Football Festival, which was attended by over 200 women, playing in 23 teams.  With a World Cup theme, the purpose of the day was for everyone participating, to just enjoy playing football against teams who were of the same ability ie. mostly beginners.  What was witnessed was great camaraderie from a large group of women who were having fun and creating new friendships through playing the “beautiful game”.  What we need now are more events, nationally, so WRF can be showcased and other women can see that they can also get involved without any prerequisites.

Over 200 women playing in 23 teams enjoyed a fun day of football at the National Women’s (Over 30s) Recreational Football Festival, in June.

Not only does WRF enable women to play now, it is the catalyst for some women to gain FA Coaching Certificates, particularly the Level 1.  Some have gone on to coach girls’ teams which is great for grassroots’ football and can only continue to grow in the future.

In fact, the Mochdre Lionesses, who have spearheaded the growth of Women’s Recreational Football, in Wales, have just announced that they have received funding to enable 7 women to take their Level 1 FAW coaching award, as well as support for another Mochdre coach to gain their C Licence.  This will help their local community in making sure that grassroots football continues to successfully grow with more female coaches.  This is the knock-on effect that WRF is having.

And finally, there are a few teams and Clubs who have won Community Awards over the last year, for their projects of running Women’s Recreational Football sessions and this will only help to promote what a fantastic new genre of football this is.  Spread the word, hassle your County FAs and Professional Football Clubs to run sessions and let’s give more women the chance to play Recreational Football!

If you would like to know more details, there is now a National Women’s Recreational Football Information Page on Facebook and that will help to spread the word of National WRF Events and sessions etc. so that groups can start interacting with each other and spread the word even further.  Get involved, ladies, your first session could be the start of an exciting journey!

Carol Bates.