By Tom Degun

womens footballJanuary 15 - Sport England's latest plan to get more women taking part in sport regularly has been backed by Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. 

The plan was outlined by Sport England chief executive Jennie Price at the Us Girls Conference at Warwick University where she revealed that a major pilot project will examine how an intensive campaign in a specific town or city can change the sporting habits of local women and girls.

It comes after Miller asked Sport England to prioritise women's sport and last week held talks with leisure operators about the issue.

"Twenty twelve has seen the number of women playing sport increase significantly," said Miller, who replaced Jeremy Hunt as Cultural Secretary in September last towards the conclusion of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

"A key part of the 2012 legacy will be for that figure to continue to go up.

"It is essential that we engage with women of all ages for that to happen.

"I will continue my discussions with the sport industry on this issue and think that initiatives such as this pilot, led by Sport England, will play a key part in growing women's sport further."

The pilot will put into practice many of the lessons coming out of current projects, including Us Girls, that are being backed by Sport England's Active Women fund to tackle the gender gap in sport.

Maria Miller 2Cultural Secretary Maria Miller has asked Sport England to prioritise women’s sport

Sport England will now consult partners about the ideal location for the National Lottery-funded pilot and the providers and influencers who can create the best possible environment for women to choose sport.

"This is going to require a commitment of ideas, energy and investment so that we can influence the whole experience for women in the chosen area and rigorously test what works and why," said Price.

Despite a big increase in the number of women playing sport regularly over the past year, women are still much less likely to be active than men.

Findings from the first year of Active Women show that strong factors in attracting women to take part include: face-to-face recruitment; personal follow-up contact; overtly encouraging existing participants to 'bring a friend'; wide promotion; and easy access to practical information about what sessions will entail.

The most successful projects have been those that offer affordable sport at convenient times in venues that are easy to get to and where sessions are designed to foster a sociable atmosphere.

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