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Southall girls football project wins award

A sports project based at Featherstone school is Southall which is helping more girls across the borough to start playing football has won an award for its work supporting young people in London.

The Featherstone School Sport Partnership, which is a Barclays Girls Football School Partnership, works primary and secondary local schools across Ealing with the aim of increasing equal access to the sport for girls.

In 2018 around 2,000 young people took part in the partnership’s programmes and only a handful of girls playing football. Today that has grown to 15,000 with over half of the young people being girls and many of them playing football for the first time. It also said that in 2022, of the 100 sporting events it ran, 52% of all participants were girls. In previous years the number of girls would have been as low as 30%.

Last week it won the Supporting Young Londoners Award at the prestigious London Sport Awards, supported by the City of London Corporation.

The Supporting Young Londoners category, in association with Play Innovation, recognised the work of people and organisations in the capital who are helping people under the age of 25 to get active and enjoy sport.

The judging panel said they were impressed by the Featherstone School Sport Partnership for not only its efforts to encourage more girls to play football, but by a range of initiatives aimed at increasing participation from girls from traditionally underrepresented groups.

Among the praise given to the partnership was its commitment to engaging girls with special educational needs and disabilities, work to remove financial barriers to participate and the launch of a leadership programme for girls from minority ethnic groups in primary and secondary school education.

Juma Abdullahi, the partnership’s head of community sport said: “We work with local schools and our role is to improve the PR and sport provision in those schools, while also giving children opportunities outside of school – especially those targeted groups who may not normally get those opportunities.”

Mr Abdullahi added: “It is important that we give girls the opportunity to play the game and to know that the game is for them – that sport is for all, not just the privileged. We run workshops to help change mindsets and stress that girls have the right to play any sport they want. Those gender stereotypes are still there, but they are changing. And that’s obviously where we come in to. To explain to them that sport is for all.”

But what does it mean to win the Supporting Young Londoners Award?

Juma revealed: “We’re obviously over the moon. It is great to be nominated for awards and it is good to share the work we’re doing outside of the group. But we are in this for the impact we have with the girls.

“Just to be nominated is an achievement, but to celebrate everyone in London is also a great thing – to celebrate the success that young Londoners are having. And, and you know, it’s only going to grow.”

Mr Abdullahi said the Featherstone School Sport Partnership added it is also tackling cultural barriers which it says in the past has prevented some girls from playing sport.

He revealed: “We ran a leadership programme in an Asian-dominated school with 16 Asian girls who didn’t know anything about football and were not very confident. We trained them up and they ran a festival for 10 schools. To see the growth in those girls was amazing, and so rewarding. Those
girls developed a love of the game they previously knew nothing about, which is great.”

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