Wednesday 03 January 2024, 08:30

A special year for women’s football

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2023 was a special year for the women's game, with all eyes between 20 July to 20 August on the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, which had a 32-team format for the first time and set new benchmarks for the competition. This was further proof of the continuous development and success of the FIFA Women’s Football Development Programmes.

Ahead of another busy 2024 on the pitch, we decided to take stock of some of the special and wonderful moments in the development of women’s football from 2023. Aside from the introduction of an important project on women’s health, the third edition of the FIFA Benchmarking Report on Women’s Football and the Women’s Football: Member Associations Survey Report 2023, were also published.

Young girls play football at a Unity Pitch in Hamilton.

Women in Football Leadership

March was all about the Women in Football Leadership Programme. The fourth edition of the programme, which is organised every year, was held in Lausanne. It provides a learning platform for women in leadership positions, offering them further training, knowledge and the opportunity to create a wider network. The programme is aimed at promoting the integration of women in the football world.

“The programme has had a considerable impact on me, because of what I learned – the activities and meetings I was able to take part in, as well as the ideas that have been shared,” said Aisha Falode, President of the Nigeria Women Football League. “Many subjects were addressed in a short time span. Nonetheless, that time was precious considering the experience and knowledge that we were all able to take back to our respective countries.”

FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™

The ninth edition, a competition of firsts and new records, was co-hosted by Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. The figures for it were truly impressive, with more than 1,715,000 tickets sold, more than 2 billion viewers around the world and 32 teams, of which eight made their first appearance at a FIFA Women’s World Cup, as well as revenues of USD 570 million.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino thanked the hosts for jointly organising the best, most spectacular and biggest FIFA Women’s World Cup ever: “This FIFA Women’s World Cup has been truly transformational, not only in Australia and New Zealand but all over the world. In the host countries, we had almost two million spectators in the stadiums ­– full houses everywhere – and two billion watching all over the world – and not just watching their own country but watching the World Cup, because it’s an event [where] I don’t just watch my team.”

FIFA Women’s Football Convention

The second edition of the FIFA Women’s Football Convention took place in Sydney/Gadigal, Australia, on 18 and 19 August 2023 just before the thrilling final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ between Spain and England. Leaders from the world of football came together to discuss the development of women’s football and share best practices to further inspire the growth of the women’s game around the world.

The two-day event was based on the pillars of the Women’s Football Strategy (develop and grow, showcase the game, communicate and commercialise, govern and lead, and educate and empower) as well as on the health and well-being of female players. FIFA expert Dr Georgie Bruinvels said: “It starts with education as a fundamental pillar and, obviously, the FIFA principles are research, education and awareness. I still think we don’t know how good females can be. I think if we know how to work better with females, we will just unlock this whole new potential. It is such an exciting time for girls and women in the game!”

FIFA’s Coach Education Scholarship Programme

Another of FIFA’s aims for 2023 was to increase the number of qualified female coaches in football. This year, a total of 41 participants from around the world benefited from the FIFA Coach Education Scholarship Programme, which is aimed at providing financial support for further education, as well as mentorship and network opportunities, to talented female coaches and players.

Irene Hehir, who obtained the UEFA A Licence in September, says about her experience on the programme: “You can’t miss up on an opportunity like this programme. If it comes, you have to take it. When you step out of your comfort zone, that’s when magic can happen.”

Coach Mentorship Programme

"I am not sure if it is the jetlag but there is probably that tinge of sadness. It takes workshops like this and the ability to be guided through some reflection to really take stock of how far we have come as football coaches, as people, and how far we have developed our connections and relationships. They are things that will stay with us for life. Whilst yes, we step away from this formal process, I don’t think that is going to stop this continued togetherness that this group will hold for the rest of our careers and lives,” said Kat Smith.

It is this kind of feedback that shows how informative and important the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme is. It provides the participants with knowledge, skills and insights. After 18 months, the current edition came to an end.

"It has certainly been a very joyous experience, a very collaborative journey. To have amazing opportunities to experience different environments, different perspectives on not only football, but life, and life in football, there can’t be words to truly express the invaluable impact and enrichment that this experience has provided over the past 18 months,” adds the coach from Western United.

Record number of women’s teams in the ranking

The growth of women’s football around the world can be seen through the increase in activity among women’s football teams. The number of officially ranked teams rose from 155 in 2019 to 192 in December 2023, a historic high. Saudi Arabia, Cabo Verde, the Central African Republic and Macau were ranked for the first time in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking in 2023.

World champions Spain will see out the year at the top of the ranking after becoming the fourth team – after the USA, Germany and Sweden – to climb to the top of the tree.

Saudi Arabia listed for the first time in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking


During 2023, FIFA member associations held Women’s Club Licensing and Capacity-Building for Administrators workshops through, or with the support of, various FIFA women’s football campaigns. Thailand, Kenya, Kosovo, Ecuador, Puerto Rico and Qatar - to name but a few – contributed to the continuous development of the women’s game, helping to improve standards and the level of professionalisation. Sarai Bareman, Chief Women’s Football Officer, said of the initiatives: “I am filled with great optimism that the future of the women’s game is going to be incredible.”

Women's Football