'Lionesses effect' sees number of female football teams double

Leah Williamson

There are now 12,150 registered female teams across 31 English counties – Getty Images/Pat Elmont

The number of registered women’s and girls’ football teams in England has doubled in the past seven years.

There are now 12,150 registered female teams across 31 English counties and the Channel Islands, compared to 5,632 in the same regions during the 2016-17 season, according to new data published by the BBC.

A further 15 counties did not provide data, but every county that did reported a rise in participation in women’s and girls’ football. The largest proportional increases were found in Jersey, Surrey and Sussex.

The most significant changes were found during the season immediately after England’s Lionesses won the European Championship title at Wembley in 2022, when nearly 1,500 new teams were registered.

The Football Association’s women’s football director, Baroness Sue Campbell, told the BBC the Lionesses had “spearheaded” the growth, adding: “As we look ahead to the next seven years and beyond, the priority is to make the game accessible to all women and girls, so that no matter their background or circumstance, all can access the benefits of football and the opportunities it can bring.”

It comes after Deloitte recently reported a 61 per cent increase in the average revenues from the top 15 women’s football clubs in Europe, to £3.7 million per year per club. Women’s Champions League holders Barcelona were shown to have the largest revenue at £11.5 million.

A new report from the Women’s Sport Trust published on Wednesday also showed that football accounted for 74 per cent of the public’s viewing hours of women’s sport, with football dominating compared to women’s cricket (15 per cent), women’s rugby union (five per cent) and women’s golf (three per cent).

The WST found that the average viewing time spent watching any women’s sport on television in 2023 rose by 16 per cent compared to 2022, and a largest contribution to that increase was because there were 25.7 million streams of the Women’s World Cup across the BBC iPlayer and ITVX.

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