Wednesday 23 August 2023, 07:30

Sarai Bareman: “Think about the power of this cultural movement”

  • Prior to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ Final, three new women’s football reports were released

  • FIFA has documented the current status quo in 34 women’s leagues, in over 200 member associations, and address crucial challenges in women’s health

  • The reports serve as an invaluable resource for all stakeholders engaged in the sport

"There is nothing on this planet that can bring people together the way this tournament has; that can empower young girls and women the way this tournament has, to create a platform for greater societal change like the FIFA Women’s World Cup does." As teams, players, media and fans slowly head home from Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia, the afterglow of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ continues to flicker. The words of FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman in her Women’s Football Convention speech were delivered on the eve of the final with demonstrable emotion.

Those who had long been on the journey to develop and grow women’s football were thanked for their tireless contributions. But at the same time, the gauntlet was laid down, to ensure that the history-making spectator and broadcast figures would be a catalyst to further forward strides globally. During the FIFA Women’s Football Convention, three reports were released that explore the current state of play in 34 women’s leagues – the 3rd FIFA Women’s Benchmarking Report – and in over 200 of FIFA’s member associations, via the Women’s Football: Member Associations Survey Report 2023.

In the latter, the survey features more than 60 questions. The report can be used by member associations, confederations and other stakeholders to better understand the current global landscape and identify next steps needed to further accelerate the growth of the game in a tailor-made way. In the former, this year's edition reflects the increased professionalisation of leagues globally. The report boasts participation from 316 clubs, making it a comprehensive analysis with global trends and local statistics across diverse leagues representing the six confederations. The report also serves as an invaluable resource for all stakeholders engaged in the sport. FIFA remains committed to empowering stakeholders with data-driven knowledge, ensuring that women’s football continues to thrive and sets new benchmarks for excellence.

The FIFA Women’s Health, Wellbeing, and Performance project meanwhile has been in gestation for more than two years, and was compiled in conjunction with more than 20 global experts, to address crucial challenges in women’s health. This pioneering initiative of FIFA's Women’s Football Division has been dedicated to addressing crucial challenges in women's health within the realm of sports, with a vision to elevate women's participation, education, and performance to new horizons. In the current landscape of women’s health in sports, the urgency to develop this area is evident. The FIFA Women’s Health, Wellbeing, and Performance project is firmly committed to dismantling barriers that have previously impeded the realisation of women's full potential in sports.

In his own opening speech at the aforementioned Women’s Football Convention, The FIFA President said there was still much to do and urged FIFA’s partners to contribute. "We need everyone. We need the UN agencies, who have been very helpful to us in this World Cup, participating with us. We need the governments, we need the institutions, to create dedicated spaces for women, and for women’s sport and women’s football in particular, of course. We need the partners, the sponsors to pay a fair price. We need the media,” Mr Infantino said. The FIFA President urged FIFA's member associations to ensure that they organise women’s leagues, pointing out that some of the players who had starred at the tournament would not have any competitive football to go home to. "(Female players) cannot all go to play in a few clubs in Europe or the USA. We need in the next four years to create the conditions for them to be able to play at professional level at home and this is the biggest challenge we have to take on board," he said.

Key objectives

FIFA will achieve its objectives by executing a five-pronged strategy to:

Govern & lead … strive for gender balance

Every MA will have one spot on its Executive Committee dedicated to the interests of women and by 2026 have at least one woman seated, while by 2022, at least one-third of FIFA committee members will be women. Strengthen and expand the Female Leadership Development Programme and improve professionalisation and regulatory oversight.

Educate and empower

Address and bring focus to specific social and health issues and reach out to NGOs and government stakeholders to develop sustainable projects that improve the lives of women.

Develop and grow … on and off the pitch

By 2022, have women’s football strategies in 100% of member associations, and by 2026, double the number of MAs with organised youth leagues. Expand football in school programmes, create elite academies and increase the number of qualified coaches and referees, vastly improving access to the game for girls.

Showcase the game … improve women’s competitions

Optimise regional qualifying for FIFA competitions and develop those events to build top-level players at a young age. Advance and launch new international competitions and improve the professional club framework.

Communicate & commercialise … broaden exposure & value

Advance awareness of top female athletes and raise the profile of women’s football by enhancing engagement, harnessing technology, implementing a distinct brand strategy and using role models and ambassadors as well as a dedicated Women’s Legends Programme. By 2026, launch a Women’s Football Commercial Programme.