WOMEN’S sport in Jersey is set to benefit from the ‘inspiring’ European Championship success of the England women’s football team, leading figures in Island sport have said.
As England’s ‘Lionesses’ prepare to face Germany in the final at Wembley tomorrow, the hope is that participation levels in sport among female Islanders will be positively affected by the tournament’s high profile.
Deputy Lucy Stephenson, who was appointed Assistant Economic Development Minister with responsibility for sport earlier this month, said: ‘It’s been inspiring to see the Euros and I hope it will be a catalyst for further development and greater profile, both for football and women’s sport generally.
‘My feeling is that people are talking more about women’s sport and engaging far more than before – it’s a real opportunity.’
Jersey FA chief executive Dave Kennedy said he expected a recent rise in participation levels in women’s football to continue following the conclusion of Euro 2022.
He said: ‘The popularity of the tournament hasn’t been a surprise to us – in the past year locally we have seen a 52% rise in the number of registered female players and hope there’ll be even more interest.’
Mr Kennedy said the Jersey FA wanted to encourage young girls to take up football and continue playing through different age groups up to the adult game, with a key priority being to find more coaches to work in the women’s game.
Catriona McAlister, chief executive of Jersey Sport, said she was delighted to see women’s sport enjoying such a high profile recently.
She said: ‘Games in the Euros have been played in virtually full stadia and shown on prime-time TV, which is brilliant and really inspiring for youngsters.’
Ms McAlister said she expected young Islanders would also draw inspiration from Maya le Tissier, a 20-year-old footballer from Guernsey who has played for England at the under-19 and under-23 level and who recently signed a three-year contract with Manchester United.
In order to harness the higher levels of interest in women’s sport, Ms McAlister said she wanted to see a greater investment in facilities, notably synthetic pitches, to complement the existing pitch at Springfield. She said Jersey Sport would continue to push for the establishment of performance programmes so that young athletes showing the greatest potential could be supported in developing their talents.
There had been calls for a big screen to be set up so that Islanders could gather to watch the England vs Germany match, which will kick off at 5pm tomorrow, but there will be no repetition of the 2018 move when a big screen was erected at Marina Gardens for the final games of the 2018 Men’s World Cup.
Deputy Stephenson said: ‘There was a lot of hard work to see what we could achieve, but in the end it just wasn’t possible.
‘We don’t currently have the equipment in the Island for a broadcast of this type, but hopefully it’s something that can be looked at for the future.’
In one of her first engagements since being appointed, Deputy Stephenson travelled to Birmingham earlier this week ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, meeting representatives from other competing jurisdictions.
She said she had been encouraged that more medals were available for women than men at the Games, and also that she hoped Jersey would benefit as the UK takes over as secretariat for the International Working Group on Women and Sport later this year for a period of four years.