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Express & Star comment: Time to level the playing field

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

It seems incredible that in 2019 girls are still not given the same access to sport as boys.

England's Jodie Taylor (left) and Steph Houghton have been leading figures in the rise of the women's game

The issue has been highlighted by TV and radio presenter Jacqui Oatley, whose seven-year-old daughter Phoebe was told to play with hula-hoops when boys would not pass to her in a football class.

While this is an issue of policy in some schools – one that badly needs to be addressed – on a wider scale it is also a societal problem.

For all the claims that gender bias has been stamped out in modern day Britain, we clearly still have a long way to go.

Women’s football has made rapid progress in the UK in recent years. It is gaining more and more of a following and players such as Steph Houghton are on the way to becoming household names.

Jacqui Oatley has spoken out this week

There is live coverage of matches on television, while public interest has undoubtedly increased on the back of some impressive displays from the England women’s national team.

Women have also had a positive impact on coverage of the men’s game, with the likes of Ms Oatley and ex-international Alex Scott widely viewed as excellent additions to the punditry ranks. However, none of this should be allowed to mask the ingrained problems of gender bias that continue to shame our country.

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We should be encouraging all young people to take up sport. If a girl wants to play football or rugby, she should be given as much support as possible, not told to do something else instead.

Attitudes against women participating in sport do nothing but deprive them of the opportunity of taking part in something they may love.

And who knows? In years to come the youngsters encouraged to kick the ball around at school may well become the next generation of superstars.

Football in particular has been a male-dominated domain for far too long. Although things are changing for the better, we must not be complacent and kid ourselves that gender bias is not still an issue.

It is time there was more work done in schools to encourage girls to play, before any prejudices set in.

Nobody should be told they cannot take part in a sport simply because of their gender.

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