British government responds to soccer players’ wishes: 670 million for gym classes
The British government is providing 600 million pounds (€673 million) over the next two years for extra gym classes in schools, mainly for girls. This will fulfill a fervent wish of the England women’s team led by national coach Sarina Wiegman.
Last summer, shortly after winning the European title, the English soccer players wrote an open letter to the government. In it, the players called for equal opportunities for boys and girls and more gym classes and soccer training for girls.
“The Lionesses’ (nickname of the England team, ed.) European Championship win has changed the sport,” said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “Young girls now know they can become part of a new generation that can celebrate successes with the Lionesses.”
“We want schools to give all young girls the opportunity to play sports in the same way as boys. Every girl should be able to play sports on a regular basis and we are proud that we are now going to give them that opportunity.”
Admiration at Wiegman
Wiegman said in an interview with NOS last December that she has great admiration for the social commitment of her players. “They took advantage of winning the European Championship to change society. I find that so powerful. It was also necessary, because half of the English girls still could not play sports this year.”
Since the European Cup win, the soccer players had been in “constant dialogue” with the government about expanding sports opportunities for girls. Many players of the European champions had very limited opportunities to play soccer as young girls.
The fact that the government is announcing today that it is investing millions of dollars also has symbolic value. After all, it is International Women’s Day.
The English Federation FA is talking about a “historic decision.” “Our success last summer has inspired many young girls to pursue their dreams in soccer,” said England captain Leah Williamson. “We see it as our responsibility to open the doors for them and this decision by the government makes that possible.”
England internationals Leah Williamson and Lotte Wubben-Moy express their delight at the multi-million dollar investment in this video message.
Currently, 67 percent of all British schools offer equal hours of PE lessons to girls compared to boys. The Sunak-led government now expects all schools in the country to devote a minimum of two hours per week to physical education. In addition, girls should have equal access to sports clubs as boys.
“The magic of the European Championship victory has now acquired a legacy,” believes Mark Bullingham, chairman of the FA. “This decision could change the future of women’s soccer and will have a positive impact on society.”
Since the European title of Wiegman’s team, the popularity of women’s soccer in England has grown substantially. Super League matches sometimes attract tens of thousands of spectators.