Almost four in 10 women in Sheffield play football at least a couple of times a week, with over one in 20 saying they play every day, according to research.
It emerged that four in 10 women agree there are more female role models in football now than when they were younger – with almost a third (32 per cent) also highlighting that their visibility is the best thing to support the sport at grassroots level.
Another 30 per cent said they were watching the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 tournament.
The research, which was commissioned by Volkswagen before the tournament, also revealed that former Arsenal right-back and current pundit Alex Scott MBE has been voted the most inspirational figure in women’s football.
This comes as seven aspiring young football fans have described the experience of a lifetime as they took centre stage at this year’s UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 as referee mascots on the pitch in Sheffield.
Lyla Dyson, Ellie Hunt, Skylar Kelly, Millie Briddon, Harper Jae Young, Nella Mullet and Heidi May Mackay were among many keen young football fans who signed up to be referee mascots via their local Volkswagen retailer, JCT600 Volkswagen Sheffield.
One step closer
All seven girls walked with the referee on to the pitch and stood nearby while both national anthems took place.
The experience kicked off for the girls at the Netherlands v Sweden match at Bramall Lane, where Lyla Dyson was the mascot for a 1-1 draw.
Lyla Dyson, 10, said: “I have loved football from a young age and being able to be a mascot at the women’s Euros in Sheffield was a dream come true.
“I absolutely loved walking out onto the pitch with the referee and players it gave me butterflies in my tummy and made me proud to be a girl who plays football.
“I hope to play for my country one day and go on the pitch as a player myself. Thank you Volkswagen for an experience of a lifetime.”
Harper Jae Young saw Iceland and France draw 1-1, while Nella Mullet and Heidi May Mackay were mascots for the France vs Netherlands semi-final and England’s 4-0 victory against Sweden respectively.
Heidi May Mackay said: “It’s always been a dream of mine to be able to go and support the Lionesses at the stadium, so being able to go and stand in front of them was amazing. The atmosphere was incredible.”
Ellie Hunt, 8, added: “I have always loved football and started playing at the age of 5.
When I was asked about being the referee mascot at the UEFA Women's EUROs I was so excited and couldn't wait to take part.
It's made me realise even more that hopefully one day that will be me representing my country as one of the Lionesses.”
Ellie Hunt was the mascot for Sweden v Switzerland, Skylar Kelly took centre stage at France v Belgium and Millie Briddon was on duty for Switzerland v Netherlands.
The opportunity was opened to young female players aged 8-10, who had the chance to stand on the pitch and also received two additional tickets to watch the match.
Girls from across the country took part, with a mascot at the 31 matches between July 6 and July 31.
Sarah Cox, Head of Marketing for Volkswagen UK said: “It was a privilege to host some of the country’s most passionate young football fans as referee mascots at UEFA Women’s EURO 2022.
“As well as a hugely eventful tournament, we’re still buzzing from the stories we’ve heard from our mascots.
“We hope that the tournament continues to inspire young women to pursue their love for football, and we know our mascots will take away memories that will last a lifetime.”
Results from the poll also highlighted other big names in sport such as USA star Megan Rapinoe and vice-chairman of West Ham FC, Baroness Karren Brady.
Sarah Cox said: “Undoubtedly following the momentous victory of the Lionesses, the game will continue to grow and inspire women and girls for years to come. Of course, we’ll see this list of inspirational icons get bigger and bigger.”
England’s heroic Lionesses made history at the weekend, with a 2-1 win against Germany at the Women’s EURO 2022 final at Wembley Stadium, attracting a record of 87,192 spectators.