Skip to main content


Referee! Girls three times more likely to quit football than boys, but half wish they could still kick on

29th August 2023

  • Bullying, body confidence and school work hinder girls’ commitment to football

  • Jill Scott and Starling Bank launch second phase of “Kick On” football initiative to distribute free kit to girls teams

29th August 2023: Nearly a third of girls who play football (30%) stop playing by the time they reach their late teens, new findings from Starling Bank reveal (1). This is in comparison to one in ten boys (10%).

A quarter of girls (27%) hang up their boots due to pressures to do well at school, while others quit because of insecurities about their body image (14%), being bullied for playing (8%) and not seeing a clear career pathway into the sport (18%).

Football coaches note the drop off in girls’ participation too; a separate survey of 411 girls’ football coaches (2) found that just 6% of their players continue the sport into adulthood. The findings also highlight that a smaller number of girls play the game to begin with, as 39% of girls say they have never played football compared to 12% of boys. 

Of the Under 16s girls that have quit the sport, half (48%) say they would keep playing if they could overcome the barriers they face, amounting to an estimated 200,000 girls in the UK whose ambitions have been cut short (3).

Jill Scott MBE, former Lioness and Starling Bank ambassador said: “Hundreds of thousands of girls have had to give up football, despite wanting to carry on. Any one of them could have been a future Lioness. The surge in girls wanting to play the game is really encouraging, but if we can’t make girls feel welcome on the pitch and keep them playing, it’s game over for the Lionesses’ legacy.” 

To support girls through their adolescent years, more than two-thirds of girls’ clubs offer alternative colours to white shorts (69%), while 45% offer kit tailored for girls and 37% make sanitary products available. Coaches recognise the importance of good mental health too; 43% have regular conversations about it with their team. 

Coaches also recognise that girls receive fewer opportunities to play nationally and are making efforts to recruit more girls to their teams (80%), and put on more training opportunities for girls (72%).

But coaches want more support for girls’ football ambitions and believe this starts at home. Boys are twice as likely as girls to receive strong encouragement to play football from their parents, adults at schools and clubs (41% versus 21%). Coaches also say that many girls (34%) stop playing when they go through puberty because of body changes. They also say that girls need to be made to feel as welcome on the pitch as boys (30%) in order to keep them in the game.

Kick On with Starling Phase Two 

Following the Lionesses’ success at the FIFA Women’s EUROS 2022, and the launch of Starling Bank’s Kick On initiative earlier this year, alongside the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023, Starling Bank has launched phase two of Kick On to help boost girls’ involvement in football. The bank is giving away £200,000 worth of kit, equipment and coaching vouchers to grassroots football clubs with girls or women’s teams through its partner Gift of Kit. One team will win a talk with Jill Scott MBE on how young girls can gain their football confidence and believe their worth on the pitch.

For the first time, the kit giveaway will include sports bras, after previous winners of Starling’s Kick On giveaway requested them. Girls and womens’ teams can apply on the Kick On web page (4).

Jill Scott continued: “It wasn’t until Chloe Kelly’s iconic goal in the EURO 22 final that many people realised how integral sports bras are to women’s kit. Having the right kit is everything; it’s great to see more options available for players everywhere.”

Rachel Kerrone, Brand & Marketing Director at Starling Bank adds: “Our commitment to  women’s football at Starling doesn’t stop at getting girls on the pitch, we want to help them stay there. The reality is that the glass ceiling still exists for women and girls in sport and Kick On with Starling Bank is chipping away at the barriers bit by bit.” 

Jonathan Green, co-founder and COO at Gift of Kit said: “Matching kit is about so much more than optics, it boosts players’ confidence, commitment and morale. The more teams we support with kit, equipment and coaching, the more players we can keep on the pitch.”

Further stats from the research

  • 43% of girls aged 11-16 play football, compared to 79% of boys

  • 69% of girls aged 11-16 believe boys are encouraged more to play football, compared to 53% of boys

  • 8% of girls aged 11-16 say a barrier to them playing football is due to a lack of role models, compared to 3% of boys

  • 48% of coaches say fewer girls are quitting football since the Women’s EUROS 2022 due to greater media coverage of Women’s football

  • 59% of coaches say that fewer than 10% of girls see a career for themselves in football

  • 15 -17 years-old: are the ages at which girls are most likely to stop playing, according to 72% of the coaches surveyed. 

Notes to editors

  1. Based on a survey of 2,000 UK 11-16 year olds commissioned in July-August 2023 by Opinium. Opinium employs members of the Market Research Society and adheres to the ESOMAR guidelines for ethical research.

  2. Starling Bank and Gift of Kit commissioned a separate survey of the views of coaches of 411 grassroot football clubs in August 2023.

  3. Based on ONS population estimates and Opinium survey results.

  4. Kits are available to grassroots teams that are either accredited by The Football Association in their county, or are in the process of doing so, and play in girl’s or women’s leagues. All genders are invited to apply for kit on behalf of their team, provided their team fits these requirements. Players within chosen teams that identify as trans or non-binary are eligible for kit.

  5. Competition submissions must be made by an adult (18+.) Players must be female and aged six and over to be eligible to win.

  6. Research findings are based on children who identify as male, female and trans, and clubs that offer girl’s leagues. The sample size of trans and non-binary participants was not strong enough to contribute robust or meaningful conclusions for this cohort in this report. Starling hopes to understand more about this in future work.

About Kick On With Starling

The #KickOnWithStarling initiative aims to celebrate and champion equality through football kit in the ever-changing nature of women’s football. The first instalment launched in February 2023, and 183 clubs were supported.

About Gift of Kit

As one of the most prominent grassroots organisations in the UK, Gift of Kit exists to facilitate the connection between big-name brands and grassroots clubs. Through its network of almost 30,000 sports teams, Gift of Kit delivers brand campaigns that harness the power of grassroots while providing clubs with the kit and equipment they need. To date, it has delivered over £3.3m of sponsored kit to clubs on behalf of clients such as Sky Sports, Octopus Energy and Deliveroo. Find out more about how Gift of Kit is shaping the future of grassroots sponsorship at

About Starling Bank

Starling Bank is an award-winning, fully-licensed and regulated bank built to give people a fairer, smarter and more human alternative to the banks of the past. It offers personal, business, joint, euro and dollar current accounts alongside a children’s card. Starling also provides a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) proposition through its subsidiary Engine, using the proprietary technology platform that it uses to power its own bank. Headquartered in London, the bank has offices in Cardiff, Dublin, Manchester and Southampton.

Contact details

Grace Wilson, Senior PR Manager
+44 7506 402635

Apply for a Starling bank account today and enjoy app-based banking at its best.

Start your application