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100 new female coaches for London as part of FA's target to 'double participation' by

London is set to benefit from an additional 100 qualified, female football coaches, as part of a strategy to encourage more women and girls to take up the sport.

The new coaches will be trained up as part of a £200,000 scheme, called London Leopards, which is being run by the London Football Association (LFA). The initiative is being funded in partnership with Wembley National Stadium Trust.

London Leopards will aim to grow the number of 7-11 year-old girls playing the sport in the capital by increasing the number of qualified coaches able to deliver sessions.

The four-year programme is one of the regional initiatives which forms part of the national Football Association’s strategy to double female participation in England by 2020.

FA figures show that, nationally, only 11 per cent of five to nine-year-old girls play football regularly – compared to 52 per cent of boys of the same age. While the number of girls playing football between the ages of 10-11 rises to 41 per cent, it pales in comparison to the 88 per cent of 10-11 year-old boys who play the sport.

According to Lisa Pearce, Chief Executive of LFA, the London Leopards scheme will consist of football sessions led by female coaches, designed to engage girls aged 7-11 years old who might never have played the sport before.

The focus of the initiative will be to introduce young girls to football in a "fun and relaxed atmosphere”, with emphasis placed on the social and fitness aspects of the sport.

"It’s no secret that there is a huge disparity in sport and physical activity levels between boys and girls,” Pearce said.

"We hope that by introducing the sport to girls at a younger age in a fun and sociable way, delivered by female coaches, these gaps will start to close as they reach teenage years.”

London Leopards will be delivered by seven professional club community trusts: AFC Wimbledon Foundation, Arsenal Women, Charlton Athletic Women’s, Chelsea Foundation, Leyton Orient Trust, Millwall Community Trust, QPR FC in the Community Trust and Tottenham Hotspur Foundation.

Each partner will deliver an eight-week introduction to football programme outside of school hours, as well as school roadshows. The clubs have also been tasked with identifying pathways after the initial eight-weeks, to offer girls the chance to transition into their grassroots clubs or other similar programmes.

Kelly Simmons, participation and development director of the FA, added: "Having set out our bold vision for the growth in women’s and girls’ football nationally, we’re excited to see the London FA leading the way on a regional basis.”

"London Leopards provides a real opportunity to make a significant and sustained difference to participation levels in London.”