Casey Stoney: Girls football academies deserve ‘elite’ government status

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Former England captain Casey Stoney took charge of Manchester United in 2018

Manchester United Women boss Casey Stoney says the government’s labelling of girls football academies as ‘non-elite’ has “got to change”.

Boys academies are permitted to carry on training during England’s lockdown, but girls cannot, even if they play at the same clubs.

Grassroots sport across England has been banned for four weeks.

“I class our regional talent club and academy as ‘elite’, because they’re at Manchester United,” Stoney said.

“They’re training to become professional players, just like the boys are, but unfortunately it’s not seen that way in terms of governance.

“That’s one of the things that has got to change. It’s really disappointing, but it’s the classification of the academies.

“Legally we can’t contract a player until they’re 18 in the women’s game, but then they have to be classed as grassroots until they’re on a contract, so that in itself is a conflict.”

Stoney has been Manchester United manager since 2018, and the senior side host Women’s Super League leaders Arsenal on Sunday, when they will try to end the Gunners’ 100% start to the campaign.

“Unfortunately it’s not my decision. Everyone is trying to make sure this R rate goes down and unfortunately this is a measure the government have taken,” she added.

“Anyone under 18 at our club at the moment has been shut down. It’s a real shame because young people need it, especially during this time.

“I personally can’t understand it. I’ve got three children. My [eldest] two play grassroots football. They can now go and sit in a classroom eight hours a day, but can’t go to a park and play outdoors.”

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