Last month I was delighted to welcome the Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch MP, to Broadfield to watch a session of the Crawley Old Girls female football development group – also known as COGs.
Since its formation in 2015, COGs has gone from a group of ten ladies having a kickabout to 35 women across two sessions, training each week and taking part in tournaments while maintaining a friendly – but competitive – atmosphere.
I wish to pay tribute to Carol Bates and Amy Fazackerley for ensuring this opportunity is provided for women across the town – and indeed further afield. A special mention must also go to the group’s coach, Marcus Doyle, whose professionalism ensures everyone gets the most out of each session.
It’s quite likely that anyone reading this article would already know about COGs. The coverage they have attracted in recent weeks, not to mention over the last two years, is impressive by any standard.
On 30th January, COGs were featured on BBC One South East’s Inside Out, and the following day three of the squad appeared on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. Both programmes are still available on BBC iPlayer and are well worth watching and listening to.
Additionally, tomorrow (9th February), the group will welcome England’s World Cup bronze medallist Karen Carney MBE, as part of their reward for winning the FA’s We Can Play Participation Award in November.
Our visit happened to coincide with the relaunch of the This Girl Can campaign.
This initiative, run by Sport England, is to encourage women and girls of all ages to get involved in a range of physical activities in an encouraging environment. A quarter of a million more women now play sport and take part in regular physical activity compared to when the scheme started.
The Minister was so impressed with her visit to Crawley that she is looking to invite COGs to a tournament in Kent, where she is the local MP for Chatham & Aylesford.
I’m sure that COGs will not only keep making the most of such opportunities, but will continue to provide an environment for women who may have never played football before, to take part in the game in a competitive, supportive and sociable surrounding.