England’s victorious Euro 2022 players have urged the next prime minister to give every girl in the nation the chance to follow in their footsteps.
In an open letter to Conservative Party leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, signed by all 23 members of the squad, the Lionesses have called on the government “to make a huge difference”.
In it, they say: “On Sunday evening history was made. The dreams of 23 women came true. England became European Champions for the first time in history.
“Throughout the Euros, we as a team spoke about our legacy and goal to inspire a nation. Many will think that this has already been achieved, but we see this as only the beginning.
“We are looking to the future. We want to create real change in this country and we are asking you, if you were to become prime minister on 5 September, to help us achieve that change.”
The Lionesses point out that only 63% of girls can play football in school physical education lessons. Additionally, they urge the government to ensure girls have access to at least two hours of PE each week and the guidance of female teachers in the subject.
The letter continues: “This is something that we all experienced growing up. We were often stopped from playing, so we made our own teams, we travelled across the country and despite the odds, we just kept playing football.
“Women’s football has come a long way. But it still has a long way to go."
Players, such as Alessia Russo and Beth Mead, also posted the letter on their individual Twitter accounts.
The Lionesses' letter has been 'liked' by over 12,000 Twitter users. It has been retweeted by various organisations, including the Professional Footballers' Association, Stoke City and Ipswich Town's women's teams and UK Girlguiding.
In response to the letter, a spokeswoman for Ms Truss said the candidate is "committed to investigating what prevents schools from delivering the recommended minimum of two hours PE per week".
She added: “As part of her forthcoming spending review, her government would have the opportunity to look at how best to deliver for girls in schools across the UK.”
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know
Meanwhile, Mr Sunak said he would “love to see” all schools providing two hours of PE and would launch a review of women’s football immediately if he became prime minister.
"Rishi has been inspired by England’s performance at the Euros and wants to use their inspirational success to get more women and girls into the game," his statement said.
A crowd of 87,192 crowd – the biggest-ever attendance for any Euros match, men’s or women’s – watched Sunday’s game at Wembley with an average television audience of 11 million joining them as the hosts ended their wait for silverware.
The open letter also outlined the legacy the Lionesses wanted to leave behind.
It said: “We have made incredible strides in the women’s game, but this generation of school girls deserve more.
“They deserve to play football at lunchtime, they deserve to play football in PE lessons and they deserve to believe they can one day play for England. We want their dreams to also come true.
“This is an opportunity to make a huge difference. A change that will impact millions of young girls’ lives. We – the 23 members of the England Senior Women’s EURO squad – ask you to make it a priority to invest into girls’ football in schools, so that every girl has the choice.”
Both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss have committed to hosting a reception at 10 Downing Street to celebrate England’s success should they become prime minister.
The level of interest in the Lionesses’ exploits has ballooned as a result of their achievement with ticket sales for their planned October friendly against world champions the United States reaching 65,000 in less than 24 hours with the shutters coming down on Wednesday.