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The womens game is gaining increased corporate recognition within the FA and has an extra representative
on the FA council. Its revised national game strategy has set stretching targets for the womens game aiming for a 15 per cent. increase in womens teams, a 50 per cent. increase in girls teams and 100 new female disability teams by 2012. However, we need to go further and quicker. The FAs review of the womens premier league will consider how it can become more competitive and how that, in turn, can contribute to the England teams future success.
The review will also consider how we can create a more sustainable professional model, seeking greater investment from established mens clubs as well as wider funding options to allow the womens game to stand apart from the mens game. The recently-established, highly-successful partnership between Leeds United Ladies and Leeds metropolitan university is a key model that I hope to visit early in the new year. The important point is that we do not want the womens game to be just a mirror of the premier league or Football League, but to evolve independently and to be sustainable, so that we avoid incidents such as the Charlton incidentwhen Charlton were relegated, the womens team were the first casualty.
Another key element of the FAs work is the ongoing assessment of mixed football. The FA is conducting a season-long trial allowing over-11s to play in mixed teams. We shall await the outcomes of this trial before considering further rule changes.
Finally, the FA is committed to reviewing the resources provided for the England senior womens team as part of the FAs strategy review, which is due to be published early in 2008. I also welcome the work of the Professional Footballers Association, which has given membership to female footballers in order to support them in the national team and to encourage the womens game more generally.
This has been a timely debate and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central for raising it. A lot more work needs to be done. My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, South is on the taskforce and I know that she will keep the pressure on to ensure that we deliver what we want to achieve. I thank hon. Members who participated in todays debate. We look forward to successful womens football at all levels.