Over 1500 girls from across Sussex and the south-east descended on Burgess Hill last weekend to take part in one of the UK’s biggest grassroots girls football tournaments.
The girls aged between 6 and 16 years old and representing around 150 teams were part of the two-day event held at Burgess Hill Academy run by The Russell Martin Academy (RMA) and Burgess Hill Town Football Club.
Now in its third year, the tournament has grown in popularity thanks in part to the huge increase in interest in the women’s game and following the Women’s Euros which took place in England last summer and saw sell-out matches at The American Express Community Stadium. More widely and nationally, the number of girls playing football regularly has increased by 100,000 in the last five years according to Sport England’s latest Active Lives Survey.
The festival, which is run by a number of volunteers, is part of a wider joint football programme between RMA and Burgess Hill Town aimed at giving more girls the opportunity to play the game which includes opportunities for girls to progress to elite level.
Tina Alfieri, from RMA added:
“It was a fantastic weekend of girls’ football and to have nearly twice as many taking part this year compared to last year was remarkable and shows how the girls’ game is growing nationally and locally here in Sussex.
The competition and standard of play was really strong across all the age groups but the scale of the event and the opportunity for so many girls to come together to play and enjoy football was really the most important thing.”
Russell Martin, Founder, Russell Martin Foundation & Russell Martin Academy, added:
“I’m really proud of the way this tournament has grown in the three years and the number of girls and teams that are now involved. The success of it is down to the hard work of the teams at RMA and Burgess Hill Town but also reflects how the girls’ game is growing which is fantastic.
With the Women’s World Cup kicking off later this month, which I’m sure will inspire even girls to play, it’s vital that we have opportunities like this and ones that we offer through our programme of women’s and girls’ football to make sure that we continue to grow the game at all levels.”