Girls are paying at least £50 a month to play for Premier League football clubs where boys train for free, parents have told i.
Speaking after the Lionesses 4-0 win over Sweden in the semi-final, England legend Ian Wright said it was time for girls to have the same access to football in school as girls.
The FA is aiming for at least 75 per cent equal access to football in PE lessons by 2024.
But while millions has been invested in the elite level of the game, parents have revealed there is still a long way to go for girls trying to break through.
Boys who join Premier League football academies are formally contracted by the club. They cannot be paid until they leave school, although it is not uncommon for the families to be supported.
However, parents of girls say that they are having to shell out to play because of a lack of similar opportunities for girls.
One father, who asked not to be named, has a teenage daughter who has been playing at Crystal Palace’s junior girls’ team for five seasons.
While the team plays under the club’s badge, it is not the same as playing for an academy, and gets little investment, with parents having to pay towards pitch hire, kit and refereeing costs as at any other amateur club.
“It’s training every Tuesday and Thursday and then there’s games on Saturday, we pay £50 a month via direct debit,” he said. “It’s not the same with the boys, they class the boys as elite – they are still treated superior.”
The Palace junior girls’ team has played other Premier League clubs including West Ham, Spurs and Leicester. But they have not yet been allowed to use the club’s state of the art £20m facilities opened by England manager Gareth Southgate last year.
The junior teams end at age 16 and there are not yet any age groups to bridge the gap with the women’s teams. Most of Palace’s women’s team players are recruited come from other clubs and even though the girls in the junior team are unlikely to make the step up immediately, the club still retains the right to axe them.
“And at the end of the season, several girls were dropped from the team,” the father said. “They said they were not good enough. They said you can’t come back to play.
“There are clubs where it’s free to play but the issue is that people believe there is a pathway to the WSL [Women’s Super League] at Palace.
“For me it’s not just Palace, it’s the FA. They have not looked at women’s football carefully. Where is the FA investment?
“My daughter loves football,” he said, but added: “She’s thinking: ‘do I change sport?’”