Photo Credit: BBC

By Sportside CEO Xan Varmuza:

One of our goals at Sportside is to encourage more young women to take part in sport. 

And there’s no better example of what the right blend of role models, opportunity and profile can achieve than women’s football. 

A survey from Nielsen shows a 60 per cent rise in support for the women’s game in the last two years – with one in five adults in the UK now describing themselves as fans. 

What used to be a minority sport has now become mainstream, we even have former England star Alex Scott in the quarter-final of Strictly Come Dancing. 

Television has played a big part in the boom, with 28million people watching the BBC’s coverage of last summer’s World Cup. The other week a record-breaking crowd of 38,000 saw Arsenal win at Tottenham Hotspur. 

The surge is no accident but has been driven by a focus on accessibility for all, values the team here at Sportside share. 

That is why the FA has pledged to make women’s football the second-highest participation sport. 

Key to this is investment at the grassroots level of school and university football. One challenge we need to address is the fall-out of young women playing sport when they hit the age of 14. 

Another is opportunity – 75 per cent of female adults are denied access to the game as children. 

Barclays have pumped £14million into the women’s game with a pledge to make football available to all girls in school by 2024. 

Engaging more young women in schools and universities is critical. 

More players create a stronger pipeline of talent, meaning higher quality, bigger crowds and more sponsorship. 

A virtuous circle that is a game changer for any sport.