Baroness Sue Campbell has said football’s governing and competition bodies have “woken up” to the appetite that exists for women’s football.
The director of women’s football at the FA, who has been given a damehood for services to sport, described how she had seen “an unbelievable change” in opportunities for women in the game over the past five years since she has been at the association.
After collecting her honour from the Princess Royal at a ceremony in Windsor Castle, she said: “The women’s World Cup in France in 2019, when we got to the semi-final, over 11 million people watched that semi-final. So in terms of audience interest, it’s certainly there.
“I think everybody, whether that’s Fifa, Uefa or ourselves at the FA, has woken up to the realisation that there’s a massive interest in the women’s game.
“We’re seeing a massive growth of interest in broadcast, commercial and people just wanting to see it. So our job is to make sure if a little girl is inspired by watching them, then the opportunity is there for them to do something.”
She added: “I’ve only been at the FA for five years but in that five years I’ve seen an unbelievable change in opportunities to play and the profile of the women’s game has been incredible.
“But I would hate anybody to think we’re finished – we’re nowhere near finished where we want to be, but we’ve certainly gone on a very exciting journey so far.”
On Monday, to coincide with International Day of the Girl, the FA launched a new campaign called Let Girls Play, which supports the association’s ambition to give all girls equal access to play football in school by 2024.
Only 63% of schools currently offer girls’ football in PE lessons and the FA’s ambition is to have 75% providing equal access to football for girls in sports lessons by 2024.
The FA has established a website with resources to help encourage more girls to feel the mental and physical benefits of exercise through playing football and is working with a group of young players – aged 14 to 18 – who will help encourage others.
Lady Campbell was previously awarded a CBE for her services to sport in June 2003 following her roles at the Sports Council (now Sport England) and the National Coaching Foundation (NCF).
Describing being given a damehood, she said: “It’s a very proud moment and I feel very privileged. To have received it here as well in such incredible surroundings, it’s very special.”