International Women's Day - female sport needs positive exposure

March 11, 2021

Today’s Woman in Sport is Joelle Pengelley, former Women’s Muratti player and now Women and Girls Football Development Officer.

‘Living in Guernsey we are fortunate to have plenty of opportunities to participate in many different sports, although this sometimes means that the same individuals are those playing all the different sports. As a young person I took part in; Dance, Netball, Tennis and Football and now as an adult I still play Tennis and Football and also Softball and Basketball.

A barrier that I faced when I was younger playing girls football was that once I had turned 14 I could no longer join in with girls’ football and had to wait until the age of 16 to play ladies football. Mixed football wasn’t really a thing back then so I had to stop playing football until I turned 16, but I didn’t start again until I was 17.

In the women’s game the biggest barrier to participation has been the number of women playing. Unfortunately since I began playing senior football in 2011 the number of female football teams in Guernsey has continued to decline and the local woman’s league disbanded in 2016.

I faced a similar barrier playing junior tennis as during the competitions there were only two other girls I could play against within my age category and as the other girls were better than I was I only ever got to play one match before being knocked out. It was a shame that there weren’t more girls to play and so this meant I ended up stopping entering the competitions.

‘Now working in football, I have ensured that there is a consistent pathway for girls from the age of 5 all the way up to ladies football for them to participate in female football. It is now also possible for girls to play in the local clubs within mixed teams with boys and girls. By creating this pathway the senior female game will continue to progress with more girls taking an interest in playing football.

‘I feel a lot has already been done to encourage more girls to take part in football, but there still seems to be a stigma around football being a male sport. The England Women Lionesses have done a great job at creating a positive profile for female football and Maya Le Tissier, now playing for Brighton and Hove Albion WFC, has been an amazing example of local talent. The local clubs have also been excellent in giving girls the opportunity to play in the team with boys. I would love to see girls’ only teams in clubs one day.

‘I believe that The FA have done a good job at reducing the gap between male and female football in recent years, but the biggest thing that female football needs is more positive exposure. The local press have been doing Guernsey Football’s All-Time Top 100 but I am yet to see a female name included on the list!'

#ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021

Photo courtesy of Andy Dovey