Beth Mead eyes ‘exciting times’ after Lionesses’ push pays off for girls’ sport

Euros winner Beth Mead welcomed “exciting times ahead” for girls’ football after schools were required to offer equal access to sports in a victory for the Lionesses’ campaign.

The striker said she hoped the boost would form part of a “lasting legacy” of the team’s success as she visited Downing Street with fellow champions Jill Scott and Ellen White.

Rishi Sunak hosted them on International Women’s Day as a group of girls were treated to a football training session in No 10’s state dining room.

Leah Williamson lifts the European Championship trophy
Leah Williamson led England to European Championship success (Danny Lawson/PA)

The Lionesses quickly used their victory last year to campaign for improved access to sports for girls, which received a major boost from a Government package on Wednesday.

More than £600 million in funding will be provided over the next two academic years as schools were told they must deliver a minimum of two hours of PE each week and give girls equal access to the same sports as boys.

Ms Mead, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner, told broadcasters: “We’re passionate about a lasting legacy and the next generation of football, for girls especially.

“It’s exciting times ahead and hopefully there’s girls who can take over from us and do even better.”

Ms Scott, the reigning I’m A Celebrity champion, welcomed the new commitment and said “things are going really well and we’re looking forward to the future”.

Mr Sunak said he “didn’t need much convincing” when the footballers were asked if they were pleased they had won the improvement for girls’ sport.

York City Knights v Wigan Warriors – Betfred Women’s Super League – Semi Finals – Headingley Stadium
Women and girls are continuing to make advances in sports such as rugby league (Richard Sellers/PA)

“You talk to all the young girls behind us, they’re so fired up, they want to play football,” he said.

“I’m delighted we could do this, I didn’t need much persuading at all and we’re having a great day to celebrate today.”

After their victory in Wembley, the women’s team wrote to then-prime minister Liz Truss with the demand that all school girls have access to a minimum of two hours a week of sport.

On Wednesday Mr Sunak said they were “doing our best not to knock over the silverware as we go” as he hosted the training session for primary and secondary school girls.

The Prime Minister did not kick a ball. Instead he blew a whistle presented to him by the FA’s director of women’s football Baroness Sue Campbell.

When the rain eased they were able to go out into the street. The girls trained diligently under the instruction of their peers and did not use the opportunity to try to pass to the PM.