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Women’s football

With the FIFA Women’s World Cup as the focal piece of the year, women’s football made further great strides forward over the course of 2023.

Women’s Football Convention

While the tournament captivated billions around the world and saw nearly two million fans flock to stadiums, the FIFA Women’s Football Convention opened in Sydney/Gadigal just before the FIFA Women’s World Cup final, providing an opportunity for some of the top minds in the game to focus on how to shape what will be a bright future for women’s football. The two-day event brought together FIFA Legends, leaders, coaches and administrators from across the world, and featured speeches and panel discussions founded on the five pillars of the FIFA Women’s Football Strategy: develop and grow, showcase the game, communicate and commercialise, govern and lead, and educate and empower.

FIFA Women's Football Convention - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023

Global figures gather as convention kicks off

The first day included addresses from the Australian Minister for Sport Anika Wells and FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who acknowledged the “transformational” aspect of the tournament. That message was reinforced by Arsène Wenger, FIFA Chief of Global Football Development, who stated: “Half of the world’s population don’t get the chance to play and to develop. We want to give everybody a chance.” Specific issues that female athletes face in preparing to perform were addressed in detail, notably in terms of their menstrual cycle and how that could impact their ability to best deliver on their talent. That discussion was a prelude to the launch of the FIFA Female Health Project, the latest and most significant step yet taken by the FIFA Women’s Football Division to address key challenges in women’s health in sport.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 19: FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman delivers keynote speech - Positive Impact of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ during the FIFA Women's Football Convention at the International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour on August 19, 2023 in Sydney / Gadigal, Australia. (Photo by Maja Hitij - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

This year we’ve felt a seismic shift in the way that people see the women’s game. 2023 is about showing the world what it means to take the game beyond greatness.

Sarai Bareman
FIFA Chief Women's Football Officer

The fruit of over two years’ work by academic and medical experts from a range of fields, it focuses on how to change perceptions and attitudes towards fundamental women’s health issues in football, such as by raising awareness, through coach and player education, optimising training during hormonal changes, and breaking barriers and taboos. For example, in South Sudan, a pilot project was undertaken to educate young women and girls on menstrual hygiene, whilst also providing them with adequate reusable sanitary products.

Loretta Lynch - Former U.S. Attorney General, Partner at Paul, Weiss delivers a Keynote speech during Pillar 3: Govern & Lead

The convention’s opening day concluded with a case study focused on the creation of Angel City FC, and included unique insight from the club’s co-founders Kara Nortman and Julie Uhrman, who is also the club’s President, as they outlined how women can take a leading role in the governance of the game. This was also the essence of the stirring keynote address delivered by former US Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “Football is tremendously important. And therefore, like all important things in the world, football must be diverse, from the fields to the boardrooms, from the games to the leadership,” she said. “Anything that represents the best of us must include all of us to be truly great.”

Anything that represents the best of us must include all of us to be truly great.

Loretta Lynch
Former US Attorney General

Outstanding coaching figures such as Chelsea manager Emma Hayes and former US women’s national team coach Jill Ellis, a two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup winner, gave their insight into life for women in the dugout. FIFA’s Coach Mentorship Programme – a cornerstone of FIFA’s Women’s Football Strategy – is aimed at giving more women an opportunity to follow in their footsteps. In the year after its launch in 2022, the second edition of the initiative once again paired female coaches who hold the A or Pro licences and/or are an active national-team coach with an experienced coach – one of 20 mentors, who include FIFA Women’s World Cup winners and Olympic gold medallists – in order for them to acquire knowledge and skills and further their careers. All of this is part of a “seismic shift in the way that people see the women’s game”, as FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman said when she spoke on the second day of the convention. Along with fellow FIFA Legends Carli Lloyd and Briana Scurry, former England international striker Ian Wright hosted the day’s opening panel chat on the theme of “Role Models Rising” to highlight the importance of giving future generations footsteps to follow in, while the huge commercial opportunities presented by the women’s game were also explored.

FIFA Women's Football Convention - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023

Key reports published

Such topics were also part of two reports published at the time, both of which are significant in terms of ensuring the continued growth of women’s football. The Women’s Football: Member Associations Survey Report 2023 was compiled on the basis of the answers supplied by over 200 member associations around the world to a FIFA survey of more than 60 questions. It provided a snapshot of the rude health of the women’s game, as exemplified by the fact that the number of women and girls playing organised football has increased by nearly a quarter to 16.6 million since the previous report in 2019.

FIFA Women's Football Convention - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023

Based on detailed and extensive data collated across the women’s game from youth academies and coaching to club licensing and commercial strategies in 34 leagues worldwide, the FIFA Women’s Benchmarking Report is the only global benchmarking report of its kind, and helps provide a blueprint for how to continue propelling women’s football forward.

One aspect that does that is technology. The innovations implemented during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, such as in-stadium announcements from referees following the video assistant referee’s intervention and semi-automatic offside technology, were explained at the convention. A new addition was the FIFA Player App, which enabled players to access their own tracking metrics after matches – it was downloaded by over 400 players at the tournament.

FIFA Women's Football Convention - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023

Off the pitch

The creation of the FIFA Female Health Project was a watershed moment in women’s football, acknowledging the specific health challenges women face off the pitch, and how they impact their performance on it. “For too long, we have applied research on white male players and used the evidence to train female players,” said Dr Dawn Scott, Vice President of Performance, Medical and Innovation at National Women’s Soccer League club the Washington Spirit, and one of the 20 expert contributors to the project. “This project is the starting point to educate and empower players, coaches and support staff on how to optimally train women as women, ensuring the health, well-being and performance of female players.” Poised to drive transformative change by addressing complex topics such as supporting players through pregnancy and understanding the menstrual cycle’s impact, the project operates under three interconnected pillars: Awareness, Research and Education.

FIFA Women's Football Convention - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023

Its approach is evidence-based, with the two-year research period prior to the project launch finding that 95% of players experience daily menstrual cycle symptoms, one in three have adjusted training due to symptoms, and 66% feel symptoms affect their performance. All but 10% of players surveyed did not communicate menstrual cycle issues with coaches. “We are excited about our new initiative, which is dedicated to enhancing the holistic development of every female footballer,” said Sarai Bareman, FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer. “Our goal is to prioritise the health, well- being and performance of these athletes, while also advancing the understanding and engagement of women and girls in football across all levels of the game. This initiative reflects our commitment to creating a thriving and inclusive environment for women’s football, fostering growth and expanding opportunities for all.”

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 23: FIFA President Gianni Infantino during a photo shoot at HoF, Home of FIFA on June 23, 2023 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/FIFA)

Our aim is to unlock the full potential that exists within women’s football and to create a sustainable and bright future for the sport.

Gianni Infantino
FIFA President

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