The United States recently lifted the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada after a convincing 5-2 victory in the final against Japan. The tournament was a memorable one for the English Women's team who reached the Semi-Finals of the competition, only to lose agonisingly to a last minute Laura Bassett own goal against Japan, who up until recently, were the holders of the trophy. A third place finish for Mark Sampson's side was a fantastic achievement and it meant real steps forward in the women's game for the Lionesses.
The hunger in the women's game is there to see on a more local basis also, an example of this was presented to us a few weeks ago.
Locally based schoolgirl Rebah Ayub, who is the niece of Bradford born former Boxing Champion Nadeem 'Golden Boy' Siddique, popped in a few weeks back with her uncle and her uncle's close friend Junior Witter who of course helped out with the #onefournine Season Ticket campaign by starring in a promotional video alongside Chief Operating Officer James Mason.
Ayub, a primary school student in the area spoke about her desire to play football and how much she enjoys it.
'I play football for my school, Westminster Primary. I play as a striker and have scored lots of goals this season.'
'I've won a lot of medals, and the team went to a tournament where people from different schools came, one Bradford City player came and gave us a Bradford City medal!'
'I got into football because lots of people in my school played and I wanted to do it too. I play lots of sports like Cricket, Dodgeball, Rugby and Tennis, but my favourite sport is Football.'
'Hopefully I can start to play for a girls' team and play more often.'
Pictured below is Rebah Ayub (centre), with her uncle Nadeem Siddique (left) and his friend and fellow Boxer, Junior Witter (right).
Women's football is certainly on the rise on a local, national and international basis and the national team's successes certainly proved that, millions of viewers switched on their televisions to track the success of England in the World Cup and this will only generate greater interest in the game. Nearer to home, the women's football team here at Bradford City have been successful in recent times showing real signs of development and progression, Sally Thackray, who plays a vital role in the operating of the various Bradford City women's football teams, spoke to us about the women's game.
On England Women's Team:
'They have had their best international tournament and finished 3rd in the world, and top European team after beating a strong German side, with a penalty in extra time.
It has been interesting to see how the players have developed since Mark Sampson took over, 4 years ago, and amazing to see them performing so well as a team, working hard for each other, and never giving up.
There are some excellent role models now in the England team, for all young players coming through to aspire to. It's also very good to see the matches being widely available on TV, and getting much better media coverage than before. This can only help to improve and enhance the women's game generally.'
On Bradford City Women's Team:
Like any Club there have ups and downs since our formation in 1988. We probably hit a lowpoint when we were relegated to the North Eastern Regional league, having spent 2 seasons in the Premier League a few seasons before. At this point we struggled to field more than 1 senior team, and the junior section was in decline. For many years in West Yorkshire, Leeds Utd have been the most dominant club.'
'Over the last 5 seasons we have been slowly rebuilding, and with a number of promotions now have 3 very successful senior teams. For the last 2 seasons the 1st team have played in the FA Women's Premier League North, the top level in winter football pyramid, finishing 3rd and 4th respectively; Reserves played in the FA Womens Premier League Reserves, finishing 2nd and top, and the A Team play in the West Riding County League and have finished top for the last 2 years, being promoted up the League each time.'
'All senior teams have also been heavily involved in various Cup finals, with the 1st team progressing the furthest ever in the FA Cup this year, and beating Leeds United in the County Cup final in 2014, and just to prove it wasn't a fluke, we beat them in the semi final this year, going on to retain the County Cup. This has now put Bradford City Women's FC at the top of the West Yorkshire tree. We've now got to ensure we stay there, and are aiming to make the big step up and get promoted to the Women's Super League ( WSL).'
'3 years ago we relaunched our Junior section, and last season we had 4 solid teams, they have all had some success, and we hope to have 6 teams for next season.'
On Women's Football in Local schools/Community:
'I think the problem with schools is inconsistency, and this doesn't just apply to girls football. Schools generally have a sports co-ordinator, but it depends on how much time they have to carry out the role, and what sport they give priority to. So as a result interest from schools is very mixed. That said there have been excellent response from some schools to initiatives run by Football in the Community and the FA.'
'Recently our Junior Development Officer has started some free Saturday morning sessions for girls of all ages, we thought if we had 20 new girls coming to try out football, that would be an excellent result, but we had over 100 girls! Amazingly they all returned for a second week, so there is clearly an appetite out there.'
What could be done to improve this?:
'Raise the profile of the Women's game, and especially the local womens and girls teams. Media has a large part to play here. Encourage girls and their families to watch the senior games available locally, and to get involved that way.'
'Also a more co-ordinated approach from the FA and Schools can only help. We've proved the interest is out there, it just needs channeling.'
On Womens football in 5/10 years:
'The Women's game is at a crucial time in the sense of development. Changes need to be made slowly to allow a solid operating base. The World Cup success has certainly increased interest and that must be capitalised on.'
'The official vision is for the women's structure to be comparable to that of the men, but with the top level structure being a Summer league. The majority of these games will inevitably move to 3G type surfaces, as summer stadium grass options are limited.'
'The England Manager, Mark Sampson has called for all 92 mens League Clubs to have a women's team, as one way to strengthen the women's national side.
The WSL is the beginning of this vision at the top level, and most of the players are contract players. It is a big jump for clubs trying to get promoted into the WSL, whose players will be paying to play, rather than the reverse. There are also a number of logistics to resolve in moving between winter and summer leagues. Hopefully in the next 10 years the gap between the Winter and Summer pyramids will close, and these issues overcome.'