MPs want more women’s football boots to be made and sold amid ACL injuries

<span>The women’s equality committee criticised brands for only making only a ‘handful’ of boots specifically designed for female players.</span><span>Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile/Uefa/Getty Images</span>
The women’s equality committee criticised brands for only making only a ‘handful’ of boots specifically designed for female players.Photograph: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile/Uefa/Getty Images

Sport “must do better” when it comes to making football boots specifically for female players amid a high number of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in the women’s game, an influential cross-party committee of MPs has warned.

In a powerful report, the women’s equality committee criticises brands for making only a “handful” of boots specifically designed for women’s bodies – and expressed concern that those that do exist are rarely stocked by the UK’s leading sports retailers.

Related: New research reveals factors affecting ACL injuries in women’s football

This is despite the fact, it says, that female footballers are between three and six times more likely to sustain an ACL injury than their male counterparts.

A Puma executive told the committee that the industry was “just starting to understand there were multiple differences between the male and female footballer”, ranging from biomechanics, bone density and running action to the monthly cycle.

However the committee said that a government taskforce, made up of UK Sport, scientists, fitness experts and leading specialists, was needed to tackle the problem – and to develop a long-term strategy to address ­sportswomen’s health and physiology issues, including those related to kit.

“We have no doubt that a health issue of similar magnitude affecting elite male footballers would have received a faster, more thorough, and better coordinated response,” the report states. “At a time of soaring interest in women’s sport, the sector must do better.”

The wide-ranging report also calls for Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign to be expanded to address the fact many girls are “lost” to sport and exercise before they start primary school, and to target women aged 40-60 to keep them active.

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The report warns the government that it is not doing enough to “reverse the alarming downward trends” in teenage girls’ enjoyment of PE, which it says is partly related to a range of body image concerns around PE kit.

It calls on the recently established national physical activity taskforce to review guidance for schools on PE kit, with the aim of ensuring all schools permit the widest possible choice for girls.

The chair of the women and equalities committee, Caroline Nokes MP, said: “Women and girls from grassroots level right through to elite sport deserve kit and equipment that is made specifically for them and enhances their performance.

“It is symptomatic of gender inequality and sexism in the sports sector that the first football boot in the world designed around female feet came to the market less than four years ago. The sector needs to evolve quicker when interest in women’s sport is soaring.”

In a statement, the department for culture, media and sport said the government would establish a board of women’s sport later this month to share best practices and research across women’s sport, including on issues such as ACL injuries.

“We are supporting women’s sport at every opportunity, from ensuring girls’ equal access to sport in school to investing £325m in grassroots football and multi-sport facilities across the UK by 2025,” it added.