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Former England and Great Britain footballer turned pundit Karen Carney MBE has today published her major independent review into the future of domestic women’s football 

The review calls for the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship to become fully professional environments, with recommendations for “raising the minimum standards” and giving girls the right to play football in schools. 

At Intelligent Health we work to encourage people to take the first steps towards getting active and support them to keep on moving. We do this by working alongside local sports and recreation groups who are just as committed to increasing people’s physical activity as we are and welcome the recommendations outlined in the review.

Predominantly achieved through our flagship programme Beat the Street, Intelligent Health has engaged 1.7 million people in the UK from the most deprived communities to enable them to be more physically active, help them to connect with their place and their community and in turn, improve their wellbeing. We work across all demographics and ages; half of our participants are children and over 70 per cent of our adult participants are women. The benefits continue well beyond the intervention, lasting at least two years and possibly longer. 

We responded to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee’s inquiry into women’s sport with Rounders England in February 2023 where we called for growth in domestic women’s football to be accelerated through the continued enhanced investment into the sport from grassroots teams, infrastructure, workforce and pathway development all the way up to elite talent. We know that through enhanced funding up to date, women’s football has been propelled into success, but this did not happen until funds were specifically directed. 

The findings in Carney’s independent report, commissioned by the Government in September 2022, examine the opportunities and challenges for the women’s and girls’ game – from the commercial future of the elite game to the current professional environment, the fan experience and women and girls’ experiences of participating in grassroots football. It sets out a route to lift minimum standards and deliver bold and sustainable growth at elite and grassroots levels. 

Since the launch of the review, Carney has met with a wide variety of stakeholders from across the game. This includes the technical staff and players at Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship clubs, former players, the football authorities and representatives from organisations across women’s sport and beyond to discuss the issues facing the game’s development. 

Katherine Knight, Director at Intelligent Health and Chair of Rounders England said:

 We at Intelligent Health believe in the power of preventative health and the importance sport and physical activity can play in tackling multiple health inequalities, particularly at an early intervention stage. The incredible success of the Lionesses in Summer 2022 led to immediate impact in terms of both profile and participation for girls’ and women’s football and was wonderful to see. However, statistically women are still less active than men and this has a negative impact on their health and wellbeing. The growth in women’s football can help change this. I believe Karen Carney’s report has created a direction and structure to develop the whole game and help women improve their activity levels and connect through football. All of sport needs to consider how to tackle inequality and this is a strong approach to change”. 

 Although there is much we can learn from the growth of women’s football, there is also a reality that most sports in the UK do not have the infrastructure and resources that football has or had (with exception made to other “major” sports such as rugby, cricket and tennis). A consideration for the future should be to really consider how disparities between sport funding, and in turn the men’s and women’s versions of that sport (if gendered, as most are), can also be uplifted.  

See our response to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s Inquiry into women’s sport here 

See the full list of recommendations in Karen Carney’s major review here