“Pink whistles and nice-smelling bibs”: how to get girls into football, according to the Football Association

Posted by
Harriet Hall

The Football Association has been labelled sexist following the release of their guidelines to encourage more women and girls to play football.

The document, hosted on the Sussex FA website, puts forth suggestions that include the use of “pink whistles,” “colourful bibs” that “smell nice” and a dedicated “Twitter break” during training.

The guidelines, which were compiled by national and regional FA staff, also suggest the use of “female-friendly branding and colouring on marketing materials,” and that trainers “allow girls to choose their own name/logo.”

A list of “incentive suggestions” at the bottom of the release, includes pink knitted gloves, pastel-coloured plastic wristbands, and pocket mirrors.

In order to recruit female members to the football teams, the FA suggests advertising in “places where girls go, i.e. coffee shops or on the back of toilet doors.”

Increased engagement could also be created, they say, through the use of girl-friendly hashtags, such as “#iheartfootball” or “#footyselfie.”


The guidelines were discovered by deputy headmaster of Lumley Junior School in Durham, Carol Hughes, who says she was “absolutely horrified and actually laughed out loud at some of the suggestions.”

Pupils at the school have since written to Martin Glenn, the CEO of the FA, to tell them they found the document insulting.

Attacking midfielder, Grace, 10, wrote:

“Dear Mr Martin Glenn. I was horrified and offended when I read ‘Considerations for increasing participation in women and girls football’. There are lots of offensive terms to me.

“We aren’t brainless Barbie dolls We don’t all like the same colour – pink.”

She continues: “If you want to advertise girl’s football don’t say we are afraid to do sports, we aren’t week and feeble.” (sic)


Lumley Junior School actually has the same number of girls and boys playing football.

Senior teaching assistant, Colin Whisker, who coaches the girls’ team, says: “These girls get stuck in on the pitch, they’re competitive and love the game, they’re not worried about breaking a nail.”

“The FA have got this so wrong, their advice reads like something from a different era.”

But the FA insists the document was create following research into women and girls’ participation in football, saying:

“The FA is committed to doubling female football participation by 2020 and to growing the women's game at all levels, from elite to grassroots.

“The document was created following research into women and girls playing football, with feedback from both participants and non-participants, and encourages a creative approach to increasing participation numbers.”

The news comes just after the FA faced criticism for being “too old” and “too male”.

Oh dear.