Thursday 23 August 2018, 14:35

FIFA Women’s Football Conference takes place in Rennes

  • Conference gathers UEFA member association and women’s football leaders

  • Two-day event included presentations, panel discussion and workshops

  • Among the speakers was French Minister of Sport, Laura Flessel

A day before the final of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup France 2018, leaders in women’s football joined representatives from member associations in Europe (UEFA) at the FIFA Women’s Football Conference in Rennes.

"FIFA is ready to bring women's football to the next level,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “Whether by increasing access for girls around the globe or by bringing the elite professional game to new heights, the sport will continuously be integrated into our activities across the organisation. This is the only way we can further develop it. Today, I no longer want to refer to it as women's football, but simply as football."

The two-day conference included presentations and discussions on how FIFA can support the UEFA Member Associations in developing strategies to help grow and improve women’s football in their respective countries. The French Minister of Sport, Laura Flessel, was a special guest speaker and she emphasised the importance of female participation in sports.

FIFA General Secretary Fatma Samoura also addressed the conference delegates on the progress that has been made. “When I joined FIFA two years ago, there was 32 per cent of women present at the level of the administration," she said. "Today, I’m delighted to announce that we are almost as numerous as men. 48 per cent of women have been recruited and are working, on and off the pitch, within FIFA.

“The train has left the station. Either you jump on board, or you miss it. FIFA is definitely willing to join the train of modernity, but also of diversity in the world of football.”

As part of the conference, presentations were given on the FIFA Strategy for Women’s Football by FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman and UEFA’s Women’s Football Strategy by former Germany international and 2014 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year Nadine Kessler, who is now the UEFA Head of Women’s Football.

There was also a panel discussion on the best examples of women’s football development in Europe, with representatives from UEFA, England, Kosovo and Sweden sharing their experiences. Delegates also participated in workshop sessions on grassroots/participation, elite youth development, senior elite development and governance.

“One of the greatest things about a forum like this is the opportunity it provides for our members to come together, learn about what we are doing and how we can support them and also to exchange with each other,” Bareman said. “We need to understand collectively what the challenges are and how we can overcome them. The best way to learn that is from each other.”

As hosts of this year’s U-20 Women’s World Cup and the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019™, France’s efforts to raise the profile of women’s football in their country were outlined in a presentation led by French Football Federation Vice-President Brigitte Henriques.

“With this organisation of the Women’s World Cup in France, we hope that we can give a good illustration of what can happen in a country, where ten years ago, nobody cared or believed in women’s football. A country, where it was really hard to find a club for a girl to play football,” Henriques said. “But now, the culture barriers have fallen down and any girl can play football in France. It’s a big, big victory.”

The gathering in Rennes proved to be an invaluable resource for delegates, as they continue to find new and innovative ways to improve the women’s game in their countries.

“Each time I’m coming to such workshops or conferences, I get goose bumps because I’ve really realised what a huge impact and power women’s football has on society,” said Nina Travkina, Head of Women’s Football at the Latvian Football Federation. “We’ve realised in Latvia as well, and now, we are really encountering a huge growth in women’s football.”