Thursday 31 August 2023, 16:00

Azerbaijan opens up new possibilities by granting licences to women's clubs

  • Women's football in Azerbaijan has been growing steadily for the last 20 years

  • The Azerbaijan Football Association has big ambitions for the sport’s development

  • Elchin Mammadov: “We are aware that we are only at the beginning of the road and we can't wait to get started"

Created in 2003, the Azerbaijan Women's Football Championship is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. And while it's time to take stock, it's fair to say that the competition, the showcase for women's football in the Land of Fire, has made considerable progress over the last two decades. By successfully hosting the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup on home soil in 2012, Azerbaijan accelerated the process. Today, buoyed by growing enthusiasm, women's football has its own place in the Azerbaijani football landscape. But its ambition is to go even further. With this in mind, a seminar on Women’s Club Licensing was held in Baku on 28 August.

"Implementation of the system began in 2004 with the men's first division clubs, who competed to obtain a licence to take part in European competitions," explains Elchin Mammadov, Director of the Licensing Department at the Azerbaijan Football Association (AFFA). "The scope of the Club Licence system was then extended with the introduction of the Premier League Licence in 2008. From the 2023/24 season, we are launching three new types of licence: the I-League Licence (the second tier for men's professional clubs), the UEFA Women's Champions League Licence and finally the Women's Premier League National Licence. The AFFA Club Licensing Department therefore faces a number of challenges this season,” he continued.

The seminar, which brought together representatives from all the clubs in the Azerbaijan Women's Championship, came at just the right time. The subjects were certainly numerous - finance, staffing, structures, administration, legal aspects and infrastructure - but they were dealt with in detail, with the help of Andres Portabella, one of FIFA's women’s football specialists. Club granting of licences to women's leagues is one of FIFA's eight women's development programmes. The aim is to support the professionalisation of women's football by imposing new standards on clubs and leagues around the world.

"The positive impact of the club licensing system has been proven not only in Azerbaijan, but also worldwide. We are convinced that these two new types of licence for women's competitions will contribute to the development of women's football in our country," emphasises Mr Mammadov. "We feel that there is a lot to be done in this area. We are aware that we are only at the beginning of the road! It's both exciting and stimulating, and we can't wait to get started." This eagerness is understandable: the implementation of women's club licensing has only beneficial effects for the development of women's football by creating a bridge between member associations and clubs and providing a flexible framework that adapts to national realities. "I would like to thank my colleagues at FIFA for the support they have given, both financially and in terms of sharing expertise and best practice from other countries. We are very pleased to be working with FIFA on such an important issue," concluded Mammadov.