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Football is for all – Rotherham want to build on Euro 2022 hosting success
All four tournament games staged at the New York Stadium were well attended.
Rotherham are keen to use the success of hosting Euro 2022 games to grow female participation in the town.
The Millers’ New York Stadium hosted three Group D games and the quarter-final between France and Netherlands, with the town firmly embracing the tournament.
All four games were well attended, with locals also using the fan park in the town centre.
England’s run to the final – where they play Germany on Sunday – has also helped interest grow and the Millers want to use this opportunity to get more females, across all ages and standards, playing football.
“We really want to keep the momentum going really, showing that football is for all,” the club’s head of community Jamie Noble told the PA news agency.
“We have been at this for years, trying to grow the female game, so we need to use high-profile opportunities like the women’s Euros to keep banging that drum at the highest level.
“There is a real feelgood factor around it. When the national team is doing well it just lifts the mood of the country.
“I don’t think at first it dawned on us how big a platform it would be. We were awarded it pre-Covid so a lot of the stuff we started had to stop and then we had to start it again.
“It is a bit like a domino effect, it is just one thing leading to another.
“We have definitely seen an upturn in demand in the last few weeks. It definitely had an instant impact from the girls’ perspective.
“Every time we run a holiday camp, it used to be 90 per cent boys, we are now getting up to 50 per cent of attendees being female.”
The club are already running schemes that will appeal to females interested in all different types of classes, whether that be a pathway to elite football or purely recreational.
“We have things that are already set up, like keep-fit classes or walking groups and we just introduce a football to it when the time is right,” Noble added. “It is very much working with every group, designing a specific session that they want.
“What you do want to do is ask them what they want and then adapt the sessions.”
The long-term goal is to increase the supply of players to the club’s women’s team, which currently plays in the North East Regional Women’s League Premier Division – tier five of the English game.
The ambitions of the club are much loftier, and have spoken about targeting the Women’s Super League, but Noble knows it is a step-by-step process.
“We are trying to use the profile of the international game to help us recruit new players,” Noble said.
“But we need to take it one step at a time. The first step is to get from tier five to tier four, which opens the door to additional funding and additional resources to run the team.
“Once we have done that, as a club we then need to decide whether we can afford to go to the WSL because there is a big investment that needs to come from somewhere.
“As a football club we don’t want to jeopardise the sustainability of the club.”
Progress could be helped by the New York Stadium becoming free for several weeks during the men’s World Cup, with Noble eyeing a women’s match being played there.
He added: “With the men’s World Cup in the winter, I am hopeful the fixtures are kind and early in that break before the pitch has some mid-season renovation, I am hoping we might be able to stage a game at the New York Stadium, that is definitely something we are looking at.”