UEFA Playmakers Inspired by Disney will continue to kick-start a love of football in girls, thanks to a four-year extension of the programme to 2027.
73,000 girls aged 5-8 from across Europe have already experienced UEFA Playmakers, giving them their first taste of playing football, with a sprinkle of Disney storytelling magic.
Nadine Kessler, Managing Director of Women’s Football at UEFA reflects on the growth of UEFA Playmakers since 2020 and the ambitions for the next four years.
How easy was it to agree the extension to UEFA Playmakers?
Deciding we wanted to continue UEFA Playmakers was a simple decision! Disney have been the perfect partner to work with and it’s been incredible to see how girls have reacted to the programme all over Europe.
Before we started, we knew we wanted to inspire a whole generation of girls to start their journey into our beautiful game. Research told us that storytelling would be the most effective way to achieve this, and if you want the perfect stories for girls aged 5-8, there are no better storytellers than Disney!
The instantly recognisable Disney characters, along with Disney’s powerful marketing influence across Europe has helped us reach families and girls who were not involved in football before, bringing them into UEFA Playmakers.
We’re very proud of what has been achieved since 2020 and we’re so excited to look ahead to the next four years.
What is the best thing about UEFA Playmakers?
This is such a difficult question, because there is so much to love about the programme. If I had to choose, I would say that the most important thing is that the girls really enjoy the sessions. Obviously the more fun they have, the more likely they are going to want to keep playing so that is a key objective. Playmakers encourages girls to make their own decisions and create their own game, to be their most confident and to be themselves – this for me is a unique element of Playmakers.
We conduct surveys with parents and girls across Europe and the feedback is really positive. One girl in Poland told us she’d enjoyed the sessions so much she couldn’t imagine her life without being able to play football, which is so great to hear.
How is UEFA Playmakers helping to grow participation in women’s football?
Naturally we see the growth in the number of girls playing but we also hear from parents who tell us the impact taking part in UEFA Playmakers has had on their daughters.
We’re seeing a change in the perceptions of football amongst parents, the majority of whom are more confident about their daughters playing football. This was a key goal of the programme when we started, because it is often the parents who choose the activities for their daughters.
We’ve heard examples from all over Europe of pathways being created to give girls the opportunity to continue enjoying the game after the sessions end. In the Republic of Ireland, a club that had no women’s teams in their sixty-year history decided to launch UEFA Playmakers. Today, that club now has three girls’ teams who play regular football. Many of those girls had their first experience of football with Playmakers.
What opportunities does UEFA Playmakers provide to Coaches?
We’re thrilled that UEFA Playmakers is also giving coaches their first opportunity to work in the game. Coaching is fundamental to football from setting the right environments to bringing out the best in players. We have over five thousand amazing coaches, coming from all walks of life and almost half of them had never coached before joining Playmakers.
Two thirds of our coaches are women, so together with our national associations we believe that we’re playing a big role in creating a new generation of female coaches. We know that in several of our member associations that there are now more female coaches in Playmakers than in the youth teams. This tells us that Playmakers is a great entry point but that we still have work to do in encouraging more women to become coaches and to open-up the coaching pathway.
How has UEFA Playmakers grown since 2020 and what will it achieve in the next four years?
When we launched UEFA Playmakers in early 2020, we started with a pilot scheme of seven countries. Today, you can find sessions taking place in forty-seven of the fifty-five national associations in Europe. It is truly a pan-European programme and the first of its kind for UEFA.
We want to see the number of girls and coaches taking part continue to grow, but ensure we take advantage of that growth by ensuring girls have pathways and suitable environments after the sessions end. Ensuring that these pathways are created is a core focus of the extension of the programme. We will also implement several improvements and give wider access to Playmakers as we seek to reach as many girls and families as possible.
What would be the greatest symbol of success for UEFA Playmakers?
Our greatest ambition for UEFA Playmakers is to see a generation of female footballers, from the top of the professional game, down to grassroots players who can trace their love of football back to their first Playmakers session.