For many reasons, 2018 has been a standout year for women’s and girls football in Wales.
From the success of the women’s national team, to the increased participation and interest at grassroots level, these past 12 months will live long in the memory for their successes, but looking ahead to the future, FAW Trust CEO Neil Ward is adamant that further progress is afoot.
Whilst out on camp in Portugal with Matthew Clement’s Under-15s, we caught up with our CEO to find out more about what plans he has in store for the new year, and what his highlights were from the year gone by.
“It has been a fantastic year for Women’s and girls football.” Neil Ward said. “I think, starting with the national women’s team, them leading by example and performing so well in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifying campaign, what was clear was the huge amount of interest and support for the game.
“We’ve seen our participation figures increase by 17% - that’s almost 1,000 new players, which is fantastic news and huge credit needs to go to the clubs and the women’s and girls leagues who have contributed to that success.
“Everything builds towards such an occasion like we have today really, where more young girls are having the experiences to develop their skills and talents further to represent the national team for the future.”
Speaking to Clement’s youngsters in a team meeting before the first of two fixtures for the Under-15s against Portugal before Christmas, Ward discussed how it is important to him and all of the Trust’s staff to see young people grow and develop above all else, and enjoy the game.
Whether or not youngsters have the goals of representing Wales in football, or whether they just want to enjoy the Beautiful Game, Ward wants Wales to cater to all and expressed his passion for wanting to continue to make a positive difference.
“If I was them, I’d want to know that somebody in a position of authority cared about them and cared enough to want to try and make a difference, and that is something that I passionately do want to do. I want to see more young girls have the opportunity to play, just like boys.
“Not everyone, boys included, want to play a competitive game nor have the pressure of competition, but what they do want is to have a great time with their friends, playing and enjoying what they do.
“To make sure we have those opportunities in place, we have to look at what we’re offering to young players and we’ll be doing that over the next 12 months.”
So what does the future look like then? Well, there are targets in place and a comprehensive strategy to be unveiled in the new year, with new members of the FAW Trust family to help drive delivery of those goals.
Progress is the key, however, and the Trust’s CEO is confident that the tools are in place to achieve the targets set out for the future.
“The important thing is we have a strategy which is to be launched in the new year, and to support that the FAW have appointed Lowri Williams as the new Strategic Head of Women’s and Girls Football, which is going to be fantastic for us because she will oversee the delivery of that strategy.
“Lowri will also make sure everyone is aligned to it and working towards achieving the goals. We have some very ambitious targets in there, not least our participation target which is for 20,000 women and girls to play the game twice a week within the club offer.
“From where we are now, there’s 8,000 players and we want to achieve that target by 2024 which is a 20% increase year-on-year, and that is ambitious.
“I think we’ve got the tools in place in order to make that happen and whether or not we achieve it what is important is that we continue to make the level of progress that we have done over the past couple of years.FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WOMEN & GIRLS' FOOTBALL IN WALES