Wednesday 08 March 2023, 07:45

Added resonance for IWD ahead of Australia & New Zealand 2023

  • International Women’s Day in the spotlight in Australia and New Zealand

  • 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup co-hosts have put in place programmes to grow women’s football

  • Sarai Bareman: Everything that we do with this tournament is to advance women, not only in football, but in society more generally

International Women’s Day is taking on added meaning Down Under this year as Australia and New Zealand prepare to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup™. Despite a long history of hosting major international events, Australia & New Zealand 2023 is set to be the biggest stand-alone women’s sporting event to hit the shores of the two countries. The tournament will not only provide a wonderful sporting spectacle, but showcase footballing role models to a local audience. Off the field, those role models are already in place. Sixty per cent of staff working locally in the Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau and Sydney/Gadigal offices are women, as are many of the senior personnel including Jane Fernandez and Jane Patterson, Head of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Offices for Australia and New Zealand respectively. “It's so incredible to be celebrating International Woman's week, when we're only months away from the opening of what is going to be the biggest FIFA Women's World Cup ever,” said FIFA’s Chief Women's Football Officer Sarai Bareman. “You know, everything that we do with this tournament is to advance women, not only in football, but in society more generally. So it all comes together so beautifully in International Woman's Week.”

Bareman, a former Samoa international, is well placed to scrutinize the opportunities for women in sport that the Women’s World Cup can generate. It is a tournament that allies with the 2023 International Women's Day 2023 campaign theme, ‘Embrace Equity’. “The International Woman's Day theme … is very much aligned with our tournament slogan Beyond Greatness,” Bareman added. “Because it's about looking into the future and doing what we can do now in order to ensure that that next generation don't have to overcome the same challenges and barriers that we have. “That is one of the beautiful things about a Woman's World Cup. It's a huge platform to highlight the progress that has been made in women's football and sports. But also to create a catalyst for all the people that are working day to day, in the woman's game away from the stadiums of a World Cup, they suddenly get this moment - which is created only by a World Cup - where there's a big boost and an acceleration of what they're doing. “So I love the fact that we can leverage this event to drive further the progress that we're making towards a better future for women and girls in our game.”

Sarah Walsh knows the better than most the historical challenges facing women’s football in Australia – and how best to make substantive long-term change. A former long-serving Australian international, Walsh has had the opportunity to help build and implement the local game’s Legacy’ 23 programme in her role as Football Australia’s Head of Women's Football, Women's World Cup Legacy & Inclusion. “We thought about a really bold, inclusive strategy, and that is Legacy '23,” she said. “That's where we landed, we worked with our communities to develop that. The way that that it cracks, the code is that it reimagines what our sport should look like. It's what we dreamed of the sport to be. “Everything that legacy is about is making sure that football in Australia is better off having hosted this major event, and that's both socially and economically,” she said. “We're on the right path. I hope that I have no regrets in my role, and I think my team won't have any regrets that we actually absolutely thought as strategic as possible and executed as intended.

New Zealand’s Aotearoa New Zealand plan similarly offers the opportunity to impact the local game in many ways. “We talk about legacy, impact, infrastructure, the tournament, viewership, all these programmes we’ll be delivering to our communities,” said Paula Hansen, General Manager, FIFA Women’s World Cup Legacy and Inclusion, New Zealand Football. “The unseen legacy is the relationships we’re building. The lessons we’re learning. The information we’re openly sharing. “It’s quite extensive and ambitious: something we’re really proud of. But what it ultimately comes down to is providing positive opportunities for all.”