Following the impressive victory by England women’s team at this year’s Euros, a local football club is hoping to grow the game for girls inspired by the new champions of Europe. The Lionesses emerged victorious at Wembley against Germany on Sunday, winning the final of the football tournament 2-1 after extra time. They will remain international champions of Europe until the next Women’s Euros which is due to take place in 2025 with the host country yet to be decided. But Foresters FC, based in Tunbridge Wells, is hoping the success of England will spark a new generation of girls to take up football at a youth and grassroots level.
The club, founded in 1982, has 47 teams which ranges from under-7s teams to adult senior teams but only began its women’s senior team five years ago. Their girls’ teams have been running for nearly 10 years and provide opportunities for over 140 girls to play for teams from under-10 to under-18. Club chairman, Stuart Newman, believes the Lionessess’ Euros campaign has bolstered the reputation of women’s football. “It’s now accepted for girls to play football and women to play football,” he said. “People are watching women’s football, and we as a club want to encourage them.” The senior women’s team, dubbed the Fozzies, play in the South East Counties Football League. Following a successful season which saw the team reach the semi-finals of the league cup, Foresters Women will play in the premier division next season. “The second team plays in the same league, in the second division,” explained Stuart. The latter team was set up last August and already has the makings of a ‘development team’ within it, bringing players up from true beginners to that B-team and second-division standard, he said. The introduction of the two senior women’s teams allows the girls to carry on playing as they get older. “This gives them (the junior players) the natural progression to step up into women’s football,” added Stuart. “There are even a few women joining us who played locally many years ago. We’ve also had a lot of women join when they moved to the area and didn’t know people.” With all of this in place, he said, the only thing missing at the junior end is getting new coaches involved – ‘especially mums’. He said: “They (the girls) need that figure to look up to. “Everyone needs role models, and we’d love to see mums here. That’s our challenge.” In a mark of what the junior girls have to look forward to if they continue with football, he noted that the second women’s team now had a qualified female coach.
The girls’ teams were given the opportunity to witness the Lionesses in action on a trip to Brighton to watch England beat Norway by 8 goals to nil in the group stages of the European competition earlier this month. The club also facilitates the professional development of youth players with two girl players scouted for Brighton & Hove Albion over the past two years, while another girl is just about to start with Charlton Athletic Football club’s academy. “We’re so proud we can develop players for the next level,” says Stuart. Foresters FC is a Charter Standard Community Club. This accreditation certifies that the club provides a safe and inclusive environment and enables the club to receive funding for equipment and future investment. It also provides support for player pathways for continued participation. The long-term ‘next step’ is getting a long lease from the Council to develop facilities. Foresters FC is a large club – 47 teams in total – but plays across a number of grounds in town. “The main ground is Bayham Sports Ground, and we are currently trying to get a lease. As soon as we get that, we are looking to invest in facilities.” The club is looking to recruit more girls from reception through to their U18 squads and want more women who used to be involved in football to return to the game. For those interested visit the Foresters website: forestersfc.com