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Football’s future is female: Eighth Wonder Project

Charlotte Richardson, aged 26 from Sidcup, Kent is the Founder of Eighth Wonder Programme, an innovative training programme offering 14-20-year old girls and women the chance to break into the world of football and become future leaders in the sport.

Q. How many girls and women are involved in the programme?

Following on from the success of the English Lionesses at the European Championships, we wanted to shed some light on grassroots football, and the different way girls can get involved in the popular sport.

Women in Sport finds out more about the programme and Charlotte’s approach to attracting girls and women to get involved as well as directly from Grace, one of the programme participants.

Q. How many girls and women are involved in the programme?

We currently have 45 girls involved with the programme but are expanding and will be recruiting for our second cohort in October.

Q.What inspired you to set up the Eighth Wonder Programme?

I worked in football for a few years. I loved it but I found there were a few extra hurdles I came up against that my male colleagues didn’t experience. It got me thinking about the lack of women working to govern, run and support the professional and grassroots game.

It really surprised me and I wanted to do something about it. I felt there was an opportunity to showcase the variety of careers in football to young women aged 14-20. It’s a critical stage in any young person’s life and by setting up a programme to inspire and motivate them, I felt it could contribute to a more representative and inclusive future for football.

Q. Did you identify gaps in participation on the current offer for women and how has this influenced your approach to creating the programme?

I think the term ‘participation’ is used alot when discussing women’s sport, but it is often only referred to in terms of getting more women playing sport. My belief is that we should broaden our thinking around its definition. ‘Participating’ in sport to me could mean volunteering or coaching, watching or supporting; any kind of active engagement that has a positive effect on a woman’s physical, social and mental well-being. If we really emphasis this, I think we will find the gender gap closes and sport becomes a far more attractive prospect for any woman or girl.

Has any of Women in Sport’s research helped to inform your approach to attracting girls and women to take part in your programmes?

I referred to a variety of Women in Sport research resources when devising the strategy for this programme. Sway to Play, Sport for Success and Changing the Game for Girls have been of fundamental importance, providing insights to tailor the programme to appeal to  14-20-year olds. The fact we attracted 45 girls in our first year is testament to the fact the insights the research provides and the recommendations work. Women in Sport case studies have also been useful reference tools for overseeing a project from start to finish and factoring in key considerations.

Q. What are your goals for the future?

Our immediate goal is to attract 45 more girls for our second cohort to extend the programme further this October.

The longer term goal is to put a structure in place so that we can seek external funding to host more one-off events and sessions across Kent, and extend the programme into the South East and beyond. The ultimate aim of the programme is to create future female football leaders. The fact our first group have already contributed over 1,100 volunteering hours to the grassroots football community, several have completed coaching qualifications and one graduate of the programme has gone on to secure a full-time job in football, demonstrates the huge potential there is to make this goal a reality.

Q. What advice would you give to any other clubs wanting to attract more girls and women to participate?

Listen, research and find out what your local community wants and needs in its sports provision for women and girls. So many people go ahead with ideas they think will work or they like personally. Market research is key. And whilst some may see it as another thing to do, it will save resource and energy in the long run!

Focus on Grace Ware, Eighth Wonder Future Leader

Age: 15 years

What have you learned through your involvement with Eighth Wonder? 

I have learnt how to coach a young female team and feel this could easily be adapted for a mixed or male team. I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did.

How has the programme helped you?

My confidence has grown thanks to the programme and communication and my people skills have improved. My ability to control and educate others using my own experiences and engaging youngsters to motivate them in sport.

Who has been the biggest influence/ inspiration in your sporting life so far? 

My Brother!

What do you think about the growing profile of elite women’s sport in the media?

I think it is good that the profile is growing rapidly, due to the Women’s Euros happening. As I have seen them in newspapers, on bus posters, news items, phone apps and on social media which gives the women’s team the attention that is long overdue. Having said that, they still in my opinion are not getting the full recognition they deserve, as I have been hearing that many people are saying that they dislike women’s football because they can’t beat the men!?! Even though we have achieved so much more than the men’s teams recently. There is still some way to go to win everyone over. I hope it happens sooner rather than later. I think the ladies play attractive football.

Inspired by Eighth Wonder? See how you can get involved here.

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