Following an extensive two-year consultation process the Irish FA, on 4 April 2014, launched its Girls’ & Women’s Football Plan.
The plan which has already been positively endorsed by UEFA aims to put structures in place that will provide female players to qualify for a major tournament in the next 10-15 years Welcoming the Irish FA (IFA) Girls’ & Women’s Football Plan was Mayi Cruz Blanco, FIFA Senior Women’s Football Development Manager, who endorsed the positive steps the IFA are taking to develop women's football.
“We are excited to see the commitment of the Irish FA towards the development of Girls’ and Women’s Football," Cruz Blanco said. "FIFA sees grassroots and leagues development as priorities for women’s football moving forward. In line with this, we fully support this new strategic plan and look forward to working with the Irish FA. In addition, we hope by awarding the Irish FA funding and support through the FIFA 'Live Your Goals' campaign we will be able to support the association to engage more girls at club level and increase overall participation in the country”.
The launch event was attended by a number of high profile guests including local actress Tara Lynne O’Neill, Antoinette McKeown, Chief Executive Officer of Sport NI, and 11-year-old Joely Andrews, a young Glentoran player.
Encouraging females to get involved in football, Michael Boyd, IFA's Director of Football Development said: “Developing the game and setting targets to increase girls and women’s participation at all levels is crucial for the Irish FA moving forward. We need more women in leadership roles, we need more girls playing and dreaming about football, we need more positive female role models visible in the media and we need more female volunteers developing the game!”
Sport Northern Ireland Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown welcomed the launch of the plan saying: “Sport Northern Ireland is committed to striving to increase female participation in sport and physical activity and I am especially pleased that the IFA is working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Women’s Football Association to drive the success of the game in Northern Ireland over the next four years. This ambitious plan sets out a way forward for women and girls’ football across Northern Ireland from schools through clubs and colleges and on to International level football. Sport Northern Ireland will also be cheering on the Northern Ireland Women’s squad as they take on Sweden in their World Cup Qualifier on Saturday.”
Taking time out from preparations for their FIFA Women's World Cup™ qualifying match against Sweden, national women’s coach Alfie Wylie and Northern Ireland captain Ashley Hutton were also present at the launch. Alfie commented: “The IFA at present have in place a Regional Girls’ Excellence Programme and five girls’ squads at various age levels participating in International football. These exciting plans will be of great benefit to all the girls on their player pathway and will help develop effective coaches. In doing so our international squads will build on what has already been achieved. “
IFA President Jim Shaw closed the launch ceremony and remarked: "We are delighted to launch the IFA Girls’ and Women’s Football Plan today and we look forward to delivering the ambitious goals that we have outlined in it. These are exciting times in women’s football and we are committed to developing the women’s game at Grassroots, Domestic and International level”.