The recent Premier League Changemakers event at Leicester City's King Power Stadium hosted over 60 girls and young women who participate in the programme, which is delivered through Premier League Inspires and Premier League Kicks.
Attendees discussed gender equality and opportunities within football and took part in different workshops while hearing from inspirational women in football such as Bristol City Women’s forward Shania Hayles, Leicester City in the Community coach, Zahra Zahid, Brentford’s non-executive director, Preeti Shetty, and Women’s Super League match official, Emily Heaslip.
Changemakers has ensured that more than 1,200 young women and girls have been able to access leadership training as well as sports and physical activities since its launch in 2021.
William Bitibiri spoke to six participants at Leicester to hear how the programme and the event has helped them develop.
Alicia, Aston Villa
"I've been involved in Premier League Changemakers for about a year and the opportunities have been great. I've met a lot of new people through Aston Villa, I've been to the stadium and have been given a chance to go to games as well.
"Being in football had not really been a dream for me when I was younger. I couldn't imagine myself being a football fan and being in this kind of environment, but it's turned out to become a big dream and I would like to be more in this industry more often as I get older.
"When I started Premier League Changemakers, I was more of a shy person. I would keep to myself and also would think about what others thought of me, but now I've become a confident girl and upbeat and really determined.
"That’s thanks to my coaches, Renee, Ian and Dave. They've inspired me to do a lot of stuff, put me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to do stuff that I never would've thought I'd have done a few years back.
"I've coached younger children in different groups, coming from different schools, for example, tennis, multi-sport and stuff like that. And it's made my communication skills a lot better and I'm now not afraid to speak up in front of a large group of people."
Areej, Stoke City
"I want to be a teacher. I adore the nursery where I work. You don’t realise how much you’re respected until you’re not there for a day and when you’re back the kids come up to you asking how your day was. You can’t realise how rewarding that is.
"The skills I have learned through Premier League Changemakers have massively improved me.
"One of the things Stoke City and Premier League Changemakers have taught us is mental health. It’s something we struggled with, opening up and talking. However, the Changemakers course has encouraged this and I think that’s key to young people now.
"The world is evolving and I think this course helped me understand the skills to help younger people. All I’ve wanted to do is help young people and this course was like the perfect opportunity to do that."
"I've always loved football. I've always loved playing football, talking about football. I've always wanted to play football as a career, but I realise you need big luck to end up in that sort of career. But, I definitely know that I would like to go into working with young people in football or just in the sports industry, whether it's with a club or not.
"I started Premier League Changemakers about a year ago, and it’s been fun. It's been something to look forward to every month. Just getting together, meeting new people, playing a bit of football, everyone sharing their interests, discussing different career paths and using those aspects of football, like teamwork and communication into daily life.
"The event has been really fun. It definitely got me out of my comfort zone. The programme had started that way anyway, and I'm now getting better at speaking to people.
"A few months back we had a great opportunity to speak to people who had completely different roles at Southampton Football Club, on the physical side and the science around it. That definitely got me thinking it's not just about the football, but what other jobs there are to bring it all together. Now I am thinking about a lot more careers than I could ever even imagine."
Ellie, Nottingham Forest
"Being at the King Power event has taught me many new things. I’ve been constantly meeting new people and learning new things. The programme has given me some key skills, like confidence and resilience. I'm building my self-esteem.
"I want to go into law and Premier League Changemakers has taught me skills like resilience, something I'm definitely going to need if I want to be a lawyer.
"Having the workshops named after successful women players such as Leah Williamson, Mary Earps and Lauren James means a lot.
"There is a big gender inequality in football between men and women. Seeing those women be powerful and being the people they are today, gives me a role model to look up to. I can be like them, and it shows women are actually getting recognition."
"My community champion at school recommended me to do Premier League Changemakers. I've learned a lot of new skills. To begin with I was, like, just go and do it for the sake of it. And now I'm really enjoying it and I feel like I've learned a lot of new skills. It’s taught me to be a lot more patient with myself. I'm not very patient, but through all the different workshops and activities, I've just learned to control myself.
"Shannon, my mentor, helped me go into volunteering and I've done a lot of volunteering with Hampshire FA, doing refereeing. I've also gone out and helped with younger children's tournaments, outside of school, during school hours. I never saw myself refereeing, but I really enjoy doing it.
"I'd like to go into sports coaching. I always had a little thing for football when I was younger and never mentioned it.
"Through Premier League Changemakers, I got the opportunity to go into a primary school and teach PE for the week. It was something I really enjoyed and I'd like to pursue it.
"The programme has helped me decide on what I'd like to do when I leave school. I have found there are a lot of opportunities within Saints Foundation to help. I can go and work with children my age and learn more about them. I can also go and work with the older citizens and help them."
Lauren, Charlton Athletic
"This event has been great. When Zahra Zahid was talking, it felt more real and relatable. That would not have been the case if it was someone from a different background, who I couldn't really relate to.
"Before we started Premier League Changemakers, we didn't really look forward to coming to school. Since I started my sessions on Fridays, it's made me want to come to school. I now open up to people that I wouldn't usually open up to. Even in the group of people that I deal with, I have created new friendships, mixing with people I wouldn't normally mix with.
"Before I wanted to be a football player, but now I feel like it's changing to becoming a football coach, but still being in the football industry. That’s thanks to Premier League Changemakers. I discovered a coaching workshop which was for coaching and through that, I got a coaching qualification. To be honest, I didn't really look forward to it at first, but once I started I got into it, and it made me think about becoming a coach and seeing that side of football."