Girls and women’s football is booming in Southwark

25 July 2022

Girls and women’s football teams are cheering on the national squad and inviting local girls and women to come and play on their teams too.

Paul Parker started Athenlay Ladies FC at Southwark Council’s Homestall Road Sports Ground in Peckham Rye, about 15 months ago. He said: “When I started the session I had only two ladies turn up, one of which was my wife, who hated football! But now we have around 35 women taking part, most had never played before and have now found a real passion for playing and being part of a group.” 

In the last year or two, Athenlay has seen a big increase in demand for their women and girls’ sessions. The women’s team meets from 18:30 to 19:30, every Wednesday.

Cllr Catherine Rose, Southwark’s Cabinet Member for Parks, Streets and Clean Air, dropped by to meet the team at a session on 21 July. She said: “As a football fan myself, I am cheering on the Lionesses at the Women’s EUROs. I was delighted to go back to Athenlay again, as I helped open their new clubhouse as Mayor.

“It was a pleasure to meet their ladies’ team and talk about the barriers to trying the sport that other women might face. We also agreed that women’s teams can set an excellent example for women, and girls. Especially in terms of good mental health, socialising, feeling more confident and getting support from other women; as well as continuing to play beyond school age.

“We need to create more facilities and increase access to pitches for women and girls and I hope to work with other organisations and sports funding bodies to do just that.”

Athenlay Ladies FC went off to watch the England V Spain game after their training.

The women’s sessions are free and informal; they start with stretches, a warm up and an opportunity for the players to catch up. They then go on to play small games and train.

Paul is proud of the community of girls and women that he’s helped to bring together, he said: “Almost all of the women are over 35 years old and a few have daughters that also play at Athenlay. 

“We have had an inclusive and open door policy in regards to girls’ football which has seen us go from a handful of girls playing three years ago, to us now having nine girls’ teams with other girls only group sessions.”

Southwark Council has helped the club; over the last ten years it funded a brand new Astroturf pitch for the juniors and further developed the club’s grass pitches. The council also funded Athenlay’s new clubhouse.  

Helen Ewen is player at Athenlay Ladies FC, she said: “Paul, and Athenlay, have created the perfect environment for women of all ages and abilities to come together. We are a mix of beginners and people returning to the game, and come from a really wide range of backgrounds. There’s space for everyone to learn and improve, but we never take ourselves too seriously. 

“It’s a privilege to be part of something that brings this much joy - and has the benefit of offsetting some calories to boot!”

“What’s remarkable is the sense of community that Athenlay has built so quickly, we couldn’t do without our Wednesday night football family!” 

Any women interested in joining Athenlay Ladies FC, can contact the team by sending them a message on Instagram or by emailing: secretary@athenlayfootballclub.co.uk

Page last updated: 25 July 2022