Women’s Soccer in Ireland – Introduction
Women have played soccer for many years however it was not until 1973 that it became organised in a structured manner. In that year the Ladies Football Association of Ireland – LFAI – was formed. In 1990 the LFAI came under the auspices of the FAI. In 2000 the LFAI changed it’s name to the Women’s Football Association of Ireland. Up to recent years Women’s soccer in Ireland has faced an uphill struggle due to lack of funding, poor facilities, and a lack of general recognition. To combat this the FAI launched a the ‘Women’s Development Plan’ in 2006.
Structure of Irish Women’s Soccer
At the time of the preparation of the development plan in 2005 there were 12,000 registered players, 550 teams, and 18 affiliated women’s leagues. In general most leagues were run during the summer with a few exceptions. At international level the Republic of Ireland is represented by women at Senior level, Under 19 and Under 17 levels. UEFA also run women’s European club championship. There are also international outlets for schools and third level female teams. The lack of a domestic professional league means that many talented women soccer players have emigrated to the USA and other parts of Europe.
International Women’s Soccer
Participation in women’s football has never been higher. FIFA estimate that over 100 million girls and women will be playing soccer across the globe. This will equal the numbers of males playing and FIFA is committed to building towards the provision of equal opportunities to females in terms of facilities and resources. UEFA has also stated how important it is that the development of women’s soccer is carried out in a coordinated and systematic manner. UEFA further identified the importance of retaining former players within the game in coaching and administrative roles. The European governing body now works closely with national associations to ensure that women’s football is nurtured and supported at all levels of the sport.
Developing Women’s Football in Ireland
The ‘Women’s Development Plan’ covering 2006 to 2010 operated in conjunction with the FAI ‘Technical Development Plan’. The plan outlines structures and methods to foster women’s soccer in four main stages:
The implementation of the plan was the responsibility of the Women’s Development Unit. The Irish Government recognises the important relevance that sport has for society in general. To underline this provides sports funding to increase the participation of women in sporting activities. The FAI is a recipient of some of the funding to encourage girls and women into soccer.
Until the ‘Women’s Development Plan’ there was a marked absence of a planned approach to improving resources and facilities for Women’s soccer especially by comparison to other developed footballing countries. The plan is working towards a point where girls and women at all levels and in every part of Ireland will have access to a structured outlet for their football needs.
Mission Statement for Women’s Soccer in Ireland
The plan incorporates the following mission statement for Irish women’s soccer:
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