The shot-stopper – one of the Club's longest-serving players and a key component in our recent success – has been appointed Independent Non-Executive Director for Women & Girls’ Football in Manchester: tasked with continuing the growth of women and girls’ participation in football across the city.
The news comes as a boost to women and girls’ football in Manchester, with high levels of female participation already in evidence: 213 teams and more than 3,500 female players are currently registered with Manchester FA.
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Wildcats centres, where girls between the ages of five and 11, are emerging across the city too, with 49 centres fully operational, and providing the next generation of Manchester’s female talent with the perfect first steps into football.
Women and girls’ participation in football is one of the fastest growing areas of participation in the sport, thanks largely to investment at a grassroots level, coupled with the successes of both Manchester clubs in the FA Women’s Super League, and the Lionesses on the international stage, where Bardsley herself has represented England at three World Cups.
The 35-year-old spoke of her excitement upon embarking on her new venture.
“I’m so excited to join the board and absolutely can’t wait to get out and visit the players, coaches and volunteers in women and girls’ football in Manchester once the grassroots season kicks off again,” she said.
“I’ve been very lucky to experience playing at the highest level in different countries in my career, as well as getting to represent my country on the international stage.
“And alongside playing with City, I’m so excited to now focus on increasing participation numbers of women and girls’ playing football in Manchester. It’s something that is very close to my heart and I really do believe that women and girls’ football has a bright future here.
“It’s a really exciting time for football in the city with Manchester also hosting games at the 2022 European Championships, and it’s been amazing to see participation numbers increase in recent years and especially since I moved to the UK in 2013.
“From my work with the Manchester FA so far, I know that younger girls are at the forefront of that too, with Wildcats centres proving to be a brilliant way of introducing girls of a primary school age into football, and I can’t wait to help that community to develop and grow.”
The City ‘keeper, who graduated from California State University in 2006, has more recently gained a Distinction for an MSc in Sport Directorship from Manchester Metropolitan University – something which she believes will stand her in good stead in her new role.
With the 2019/20 season having been brought to a close at grassroots level, Bardsley has already begun working with colleagues on Manchester FA’s Board of Directors, where the focus lies on addressing the immediate challenges faced by the city and, in particular, supporting Manchester’s grassroots football community.
Bardsley’s insight into the top level of football will help to shape Manchester FA policies, particularly around women and girls’ participation in football moving forwards.
With three Greater Manchester venues set to host games at the rescheduled Women’s EURO 2022, the appointment of Bardsley and continued successes of Manchester’s women teams points towards a promising future for women’s football in the city.
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Manchester FA’s CEO, Colin Bridgford, also expressed his delight at the news, commenting: “We might not be playing football at the moment, but our appointment of Karen is proof that we are intent on growing participation in grassroots football in Manchester – particularly amongst women and girls – once it is safe to do so.
“Having someone of Karen’s experience is tremendous news for women and girls’ football in Manchester.
“Her knowledge of women’s football is second-to-none, and her experience will be crucial as she plays a key role in growing participation numbers, and developing the talents of female footballers across our city.”