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Foundation launch bid to boost women's game after England success

Interviews with Georgia Heasman and Emma O'Connor

20 July 2017

The growth and enthusiasm for the women's game is showing no signs of slowing down and that is certainly evident among staff at AFC Wimbledon Foundation.

It looks set for another massive boost with the Lionesses among the favourites for the Women's European Championship currently being staged in Holland. Supporters attended a screening at the club last night, organised by the Foundation, watching the 6-0 victory over old enemy Scotland in the opening group game.

Sports Development Officers Georgia Heasman and Emma O'Connor are excited at the prospect of more youngsters taking up the game through their work with the Foundation.

"This is my second year of working in the foundation now. With how long I've been at the club, I've grown to love it and have that passion for the game," said Georgia, who is also a striker for AFC Wimbledon Ladies.

"Through that, I really wanted to apply for the apprenticeship when it came up here and I had that passion for it. I went through the interview process and I think I stood out because of playing for AFC Wimbledon and having that passion for the club. I'm really enjoying being a part of the Foundation as well as playing for the club.

"The women's game has developed massively in this country, probably since the Olympics in 2012. It's grown each year and there's been more participants.

"With AFC Wimbledon Ladies, the youth system has grown massively and the first-team team are now just a few tiers off the top league, including the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal.

"We're growing year-by-year and it's crazy how much it's grown. We're in a good place and the Lionesses have a great chance at the Women's Euros. Although the likes of Germany could make it tricky!

Emma added: "There are so many pathways into the game, whether you want to play on ability or your age. I've got an over 30s team for a third season so that's one pathway into football.

"With AFC Wimbledon Ladies and Girls, that's club football and they have generally about three teams per age group. They train in the week and play matches on a Sunday. With my over 30s it's every two weeks on a Saturday and there is no commitment. It's more social and recreational football compared to club football. It's really mirroring what the player wants.

Emma is not only prepared for the increase in interest, but also wants to open participation up at AFC Wimbledon to even greater numbers.

"I want Wimbledon to do even more in the community. I've had 20 participants attending one of my sessions, but I want a hundred! I think with the growth since Canada (the Lionesses won bronze two years ago at the Women's World Cup), the spike has been going upwards. The opportunity is there for clubs, such as ourselves, to meet the demands because I'm always getting enquiries from players and parents as to what we are doing.

"It's about getting involved and speaking to the Surrey FA, London FA, and other clubs and talking to them and how we can create more opportunities for all."

The immediate future will see local interest generated in girls' courses with the Foundation, something that Emma explained in more detail.

"Off the back of the Women's Euros we're going to get people asking if we are doing anything and the answer is we are. We have a girls' only week at Wimbledon Park in the week beginning August 21 and we run a regular event at the same venue on Saturdays.

"We have a girls only session, with no commitment and you can just turn up and go every week with a specific coach for girls – again between the ages of 5 and 14. They can play just with other girls or they can play football with boys too – we're just giving them the options."

For more information on how you can get involved in the women's game at AFC Wimbledon, visit our Foundation website or contact AFC Wimbledon Ladies & Girls Chairman Dennis Lowndes via the website.

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