March 27 – British Cycling and the Football Association (FA) have today announced the launch of the Kick Start Your Ride campaign which aims to encourage more women to get into sport by cycling to football matches.
As part of the programme, organised Breeze bike rides will take place prior to England Women's World Cup qualifiers, FA Women's Super League (WSL) matches and The FA Women's Cup Final.
The joint initiative will begin at England's next FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 qualifier against Montenegro, at the AMEX Community Stadium in Brighton on April 5.
That will be followed by the FA Women's Cup Final at stadium:mk in Milton Keynes on June 1, while there will also be rides to and from Women's Super League matches over the coming months.
Team GB track cycling stars and Breeze ambassadors Jess Varnish and Vicky Williamson joined England internationals Gemma Bonner and Fara Williams at the launch of the initiative at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester today.
"It's easy to get into a routine of getting in the car to drive to events like football matches," said former European champion Varnish, who claimed bronze at the recent World Championships in Cali, Colombia.
"However, we want to see more women try something different by getting on a bike to ride to the games.
"Breeze rides are led rides with other women and so they are the ideal way to build confidence and are a great way of socialising."
Williams, who has 125 caps for England and currently plays for Liverpool Ladies, believes the new campaign will be a great way to get more women not only into cycling but football also and is urging people to get out and support her and her team-mates when they take on Montenegro.
"I've always enjoyed cycling since I was young, so I'm really pleased to see an initiative like this being launched around women's football," said the 30-year-old.
"We see lots of families at England and WSL games so it'd be great if some of them can travel down on bikes together to the Montenegro game in Brighton next weekend."
British Cycling launched the Breeze campaign in 2010 and last year the governing body set a target of getting one million more women riding bikes by 2020 through the continuation of the programme, which tackles barriers faced by women and young girls getting into the sport, as well as providing "female-specific" Go-Ride development sessions and Go-Ride Racing events.
"This is about two sports coming together to inspire women to try something new," said British Cycling's women's network project manager, Natalie Justice.
"The opportunity to go on a group bike ride with friends, mums, daughters with the prize of getting to watch some exciting football at the end of it has all the ingredients of a fun day out and we hope to see hundreds of women getting involved over the coming season."
Director of the national game and women's football at the FA, Kelly Simmons, added: "This unique partnership shows the benefits that two national governing bodies can bring when working together for one common aim – getting more women active."
The FA claims football is the largest team sport in England in terms of women's participation, with around 250,000 women playing the game at least once a month according to research published by the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation in October 2012.
However, today's launch coincides with the news that Sport England has cut funding to the FA by £1.6 million ($2.7 million/€1.9 million) due to a decline in overall participation numbers at grassroots level.
The Sport England Active People Survey now puts football fourth in terms of overall participation behind cycling which is third, while swimming tops the survey ahead of athletics.
Ticket information for the upcoming matches being used as part of the Kick Start Your Ride initiative can be found here.
For more information on upcoming Breeze rides, click here.
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