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Whelan Supports International Women’s Day

Everton Ladies star makes guest appearance at an FA debate.

Whelan Supports International Women’s Day
Fern Whelan

Everton Ladies star Fern Whelan was a special guest at a FA debate on women’s football today to mark International Women’s Day.

The Blues defender joined the FA’s Director of Women’s Football Kelly Simmons and Liverpool Ladies’ Gemma Bonner at the event at BBC MediaCity to talk about the progress of the ladies’ game in recent years.

The women’s Olympic football final at Wembley, played in front of a crowd of over 80,000, was heralded as a watershed moment for the game and the group discussed how progress can still be made to bring women’s football to the fore.

The FA Women’s Super League is due to kick off on Sunday 14 April – with Everton Ladies first fixture to be played at home against Doncaster Rovers Belles - so the debate also centred around the anticipation for the new season.

Whelan said: “The quality of the Women’s Super League is growing which means British players want to stay and international players want to come and make their mark.”

The event came as the BBC announced a raft of new programming which will see an increased commitment to its coverage of women’s football across TV, radio and online platforms.

Jacqui Oatley will front two BBC Two preview shows – the first, ahead of the Women’s FA Cup final on Monday 20 May will provide a review of the FA WSL as the season reaches the critical halfway stage. The final itself will then be broadcast live on BBC Two on Sunday 26 May at 3pm.

The second of the preview shows will air on Monday 8 July and will look ahead to the Women’s European Championship which takes place in Sweden and kicks off on 10 July. Full coverage of the tournament will be shown across BBC Three with the final on BBC Two.

In addition and throughout the entire WSL season, BBC Sport online will feature a weekly goals round-up, which will also form part of Friday’s Sportsday on the BBC News Channel.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Everton and England goalkeeper Rachel Brown has also told of her delight at the progress with the ladies’ game since she kicked off her career over 16 years ago.

Speaking to FAtv, she said: “I think women’s sport overall has been helped by huge competitions such as the Olympics in 2012, it really highlighted women’s sport. In the 16 years that I’ve been involved with England, there’s been steady, positive progress for womens’ football.

“I made my debut in 1997 and was involved in the squad from 1995/96. We trained maybe twice a week with clubs and for me, I’ve seen the development from being a leisure player and not really having that sort of professional emphasis on my game to really seeing the turnaround, and felt the turnaround as well in what is expected of you in the last five years. It’s a full time job basically. “

The developments in recent years have ensured there’s now a host of positive role models for young female footballers, a move that Brown believes is a step in the right direction.

“All my sporting role models were male when I was growing up. 20 years ago when I was introduced to football, my role model was Peter Schmeichel, he’s a fantastic goalkeeper. I think it’s a really important thing for young athletes whether it’s young budding footballers or just young athletes across any sport, that they have realistic role models to look up to.”

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