A record number of girls have taken part in The Football League’s major schools football tournament, which culminates in a once in a lifetime opportunity to play at Wembley before the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final in March.
Over 6,000 girls, aged under 13, have taken part in the group stages of the Kinder+Sport Football League Girls Cup - an increase of more than 1000 from last year.
Mike Evans, Director of Operations for The Football League Trust, commented: “There is a real buzz about women’s and girl’s football at the moment. Over the past year, Football League clubs have worked hard on our Female Football Development programme which has successfully raised interest in the game and strengthened connections between schools and their local club. This is very much reflected by an increase in participation of over 20% in the Kinder+Sport Girl’s Cup.”
The competition, which is organised on behalf of The Football League by The Football League Trust, has a unique format. Each of the 72 Football League clubs run a competition for their local schools, with the winners representing their club, through various stages, on the road to Wembley.
The 72 winners of the group stages will now compete at eight Area Finals, which take place around the country between 12th and 17th January.
Two Area Finals took place yesterday, at Shrewsbury and Reading, while Blackburn will host an event on 14th January. A day later there will be Area Finals staged in Exeter and Southend, before they come to a close in Stevenage, Leeds and Derby on Friday 16th January.
Evans added: “The girls who won their local competition now have Wembley and a once-in-a-lifetime experience within their grasp. However, perhaps the most important outcome is that the competition is encouraging so many girls to be active at an early age.”
Ferrero are also sponsoring The Football League Kids Cup Competition which is a six-a-side competition for children under 11, and sees the 72 clubs split into three divisions, in line with club's divisional status, before being again split into two groups, north and south.
The winners of the divisional northern and southern finals then qualify for the chance to play at Wembley before the Sky Bet Football League Play-Off Final of the relevant division.
A Ferrero spokesperson said: “We are delighted to be supporting The Football League Kids and Girls Cup competitions, to get children across the country involved with and excited about playing sport and getting active as part of our wider Kinder+ Sport activity.
"At Ferrero we believe that active children are more likely to grow into active adults, and so we are passionate about inspiring future generations to embrace physical exercise, and gain a sense of joy from living an active and healthy life which we to achieve through the Kinder + Sport programme.
"Led by clubs in their regions, the tournaments provide children with a truly unique opportunity to be exposed to the world of professional sport, and we hope that they are inspired to remain active following this."
Drew Barrand, Marketing Director of The Football League, said: “These competitions really show how Football League clubs connect and engage with their local communities.
"The Kinder+Sport Football League Girls and Kids Cups use that connection, along with the chance to play on a national stage at Wembley, to drive participation as part of The Football League’s ongoing commitment to grassroots football.”
Local stage winners
AFC Bournemouth - Lytchett Minster School
AFC Wimbledon - Gravenly
Barnsley - Penistone Grammer Alc
Birmingham City - KESH Acadmeny
Blackburn Rovers - St Augustines
Blackpool - LSA (Runners up St Bedes to represent Blackpool)
Bolton Wanderers - Turton High School
Bradford City - Buttershaw Business & Enterprise College
Brentford - Elthorne Park High School
Brighton & Hove Albion - Shoreham Academy
Bristol City - Hanham Woods Academy
Burton Albion - John Taylor
Bury - Elton High
Cambridge United - Soham Village College
Cardiff City - Whitecross High School
Carlisle United - Trinity
Charlton Athletic - St Ursula’s Convent
Cheltenham Town - Churchdown School
Chesterfield - Tupton Hall School
Colchester United - Moulsham High School
Coventry City - President Kennedy
Crawley Town - Thomas Bennett
Crewe Alexandra - Wilmslow High
Dagenham & Redbridge - Warren comprehensive
Derby County - Anthony Gell School
Doncaster Rovers - Hall Cross Academy A
Exeter City - St Lukes Science & Sports College
Fleetwood Town - Lytham High School
Fulham - Magna Carter
Gillingham - Harris Academy Falconwood
Hartlepool United - Northfield
Huddersfield Town - Honley High
Ipswich Town - Copleston High School
Leeds United - Boston Spa School
Leyton Orient - Chingford Foundation
Luton Town - Linslade Academy
Mansfield Town - Meden School (runners up Joseph Whittaker to represent Mansfield)
Middlesbrough - St Edwards
Millwall - Kingsdale Foundation School
Milton Keynes Dons - Shenley Brook End School
Morecambe - Lancaster Girls Grammar School
Newport County - Monmouth Comp School
Northampton Town - Danetre School
Norwich City - Sprowston High School
Nottingham Forest - Bluecoat Academy
Notts County - Rushcliffe
Oldham Athletic - Blue coat
Oxford United - The Marlborough School
Peterborough United - The Deeping School
Plymouth Argyle - Lipson The Co-operative Academy
Port Vale - Haywood Academy
Portsmouth - Mill chase Community Tech College
Preston North End - Archbishop Temple School
Reading - Highdown A
Rochdale - St Annes Academy
Rotherham United - Oakwood High School
Scunthorpe United - St Bedes
Sheffield United - Bradfield Secondary School
Sheffield Wednesday - Forge Valley
Shrewsbury Town - Idsall
Southend United - Shoeburyness High School
Stevenage - Presdale A
Swindon Town - Warneford School
Tranmere Rovers - Weatherhead A
Walsall - Shire Oak Academy
Watford - Queens School
Wigan Athletic - St Marys Catholic High School
Wolverhampton Wanderers - Heath Park
Wycombe Wanderers - The Beaconsfield School
Yeovil Town - Selwood Academy
York City - Easingwold