Powell urges ministers not to miss “open-goal opportunity” of women’s Euros win – LabourList

Labour’s Lucy Powell has urged the government not to miss the “open-goal opportunity” of England winning the 2022 Euros, declaring the team’s success a “potential game-changing moment” for the women’s game.

The Lionesses beat Germany 2-1 on Sunday in extra time – England’s first major women’s tournament victory ever and the country’s first major competition win since the 1966 men’s World Cup.

The Shadow Culture Secretary said: “The country is rightly proud of our winning Lionesses, who have shown the best of British. The Conservatives have a terrible record of building on our sports stars success with a real and lasting legacy.

“Ministers must ensure we do not miss the open-goal opportunity their success provides in cementing the women’s game. This is a potential game-changing moment to capitalise on the momentum behind women’s football and ensure young girls who are inspired to pick up a ball today can be the next Lionesses.”

Labour said the government must learn from its “record of failure” regarding sports participation and sporting legacy and strengthen the women’s game. The opposition party highlighted the London 2012 Olympics as an example of the government’s poor record.

The National Audit Office (NAO) found that the proportion of adults participating in sport at least once a week fell in the three years following the Games, despite government pledge that increasing grassroots sport participation would be a focus of the event’s long-term legacy.

The Olympic and Paralympic legacy cabinet committee, set up following the Games, was disbanded within three years. The NAO concluded that government attention to the legacy of the London Olympics subsequently “waned”.

Labour has called on ministers to press ahead with the government’s review of women’s football, which was promised in the Crouch review, and demanded that the review “learns the lessons of the recent failures in the men’s game”.

Labour stressed that, for many, women’s football at the elite level remains “insecure and sometimes unsustainable”, highlighting the case of Coventry United women’s team as a “stark illustration of the risks women take on when choosing football as a career”. The club came close to liquidation within months of turning professional.

The opposition party highlighted the importance of the review making sure that there is “proper support” for talent pathways and that respect for the game across the leagues is placed “front and centre”.

The party urged the government to build on programmes such as the Football Association girls’ football school partnerships to ensure all girls can play football at school. It called on ministers to back the Labour’s children’s recovery plan commitment to expand access to sports clubs.

Labour highlighted that 36,000 fewer hours of physical education were taught in state secondary schools in the school year 2021-22 compared to 2011-12.

The opposition party accused the government of overseeing a “lost decade” on British sport, noting that the Conservatives discontinued funding to school sports partnerships, set up by Tony Blair’s government.

The Tories also axed the previous government’s free-swimming initiative and dropped its target of increasing sporting participation by two million.

Labour has called for a one-off bank holiday to celebrate the Lionesses win, noting that it would given football clubs an opportunity to promote the game to women and girls. The party has also demanded that ministers ensure the whole team receives recognition in the New Year’s Honours list.

The party is calling on UEFA to make prize money fairer in future Euro tournaments, highlighting that men’s teams currently receive 23 times more winnings than women’s teams.

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