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PRESS RELEASE

Stop the Kick Off Effect: Majority of women’s football teams are still losing their pitches to men’s games

15th May 2024

  • Women three times as likely to frequently lose booked pitches to men’s teams than men

  • Women voice safety concerns about football pitches they can access 

  • Twice as many women consider quitting football due to poor pitch access than men

  • Beth Mead MBE and Jill Scott MBE launch campaign to improve facilities access for women and girls

For immediate release: More than half of women’s football players (56%) have booked a football pitch, only to have it reallocated to a men’s team. Nearly a third of women players (28%) say it happens frequently, triple the number of men (9%) who often lose booked pitches to other men’s teams. 

Karen Carney MBE’s review into UK women’s football last year aimed to lift the standard of women and girls’ experiences in participating in grassroots football, including widening access to facilities. Despite this, ‘The Kick Off’ effect is still happening, as revealed by Starling Bank’s new study* of 2,000 players and 1,100 coaches, which suggests that efforts to grow the women’s game are being stifled by unequal pitch access.

Women players say unequal pitch access makes them feel less welcome in the sport, with half (51%) believing that pitch providers have treated them unfairly, compared to a third (33%) of the men surveyed. As a result, women are twice as likely to consider hanging up their boots than men (14% versus 8%), and to feel undervalued in the sport (22% versus 13%). 

The pitch problem

The pitches women can access often come with problems, with safety a key concern raised by many. Women are often allocated pitch slots late in the evening, and half of the women surveyed (49%) said they’ve felt unsafe travelling to their pitch in the dark - 20% more than men (29%). Women are also more likely to feel unsafe travelling to a pitch due to its location (37% versus 29% of men), and are nearly twice as likely to have to travel far to access one (14% versus 8%). 

Players of all genders struggle to access adequate facilities to a certain extent however. Half of the boy’s, girl’s, men’s and women’s teams surveyed (51%) often play on pitches that are waterlogged and unstable, while 39% often feel unsafe playing on pitches without floodlighting.

Beth Mead MBE, Lioness, Arsenal forward and Starling Bank ambassador said: “When East London’s Vicky Park Rangers lost their pitch to a boy’s team last year, the story went viral. But Starling’s research indicates how extensive ‘The Kick Off’ effect is across the UK. We need to develop the pipeline of female football talent, but we can’t if women and girls don’t feel supported and valued in the sport. That starts with equal pitch access.”

Red card!

Football coaches observe the same gender inequalities as players do, with the majority of women and girl’s coaches (56%) believing male teams get priority access to pitches, which 16% of men and boy’s coaches agree with. Just 5% of coaches of male teams think female teams get priority access, which falls to 1% of coaches of female teams.

Players of all ages and genders think gender bias is the top driver of priority access for men, according to 49% of those surveyed. Four in ten players (42%) think male teams get priority access as they draw a bigger crowd, while a third (36%) say male teams benefit from greater sponsorship budgets. A quarter (25%) say pitch providers prefer the male sport, and the same (25%) say male teams have better local connections.

It’s time to Kick On 

To help improve equality for women and girl’s teams, the Kick On with Starling Bank initiative is running for the third time, with £350,000 of free-kit, equipment and coaching equipment available to women and girl’s teams nationwide. 

A free ‘Pitch Pack’ is also available online for all players, full of resources on how teams can contact local communities, government, press and pitch providers to gain equal pitch access. Starling’s Pitch Pack is complete with a Kick On Manifesto signed by Beth Mead MBE and Jill Scott MBE, that highlights what changes need to happen to level the playing field for women and girls, and why equal pitch access is so important. 

Jill Scott MBE, former Lioness and Starling Bank ambassador said: “I’ve fought gender inequality my entire footballing career. Starling’s Pitch Pack is based on the collective experience of professional and grassroots players across the country, in the hope of providing better opportunities for the players of tomorrow.”

Ellie Cross, women’s football advocate at Starling Bank adds: “Since launching Kick On, we’ve uncovered monumental inequalities in the game, including how the cost of living crisis, low self-esteem, and facilities access disproportionately affects women and girls. Our Pitch Pack is designed to empower female teams up and down the country to campaign for equal pitch access, while free-kit and equipment can boost their confidence and improve their game.”

Clubs can apply for the scheme and access the Pitch Pack on the Kick On with Starling page at https://kickonwithstarlingbank.com/ 


Methodology

Starling Bank commissioned two surveys of grassroots football players and coaches. Opinium surveyed 1,000 UK 11-17 year old football players and 1,000 UK adult football players between 9-19th February 2024. Opinium employs members of the Market Research Society and adheres to the ESOMAR guidelines for ethical research. Gift of Kit surveyed  1,119 grassroots football coaches in March 2024.

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 also eligible for kit.

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 instalments launched in February and September 2023, where 352 teams 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 giftofkit.com.

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 powers its own bank. Headquartered in London, the bank has offices in Cardiff, Dublin, Manchester and Southampton.

Contact

Sonia Rehill 

07968 747331

sonia.rehill@starlingbank.com

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