Women’s football is having a major moment. There’s no better evidence of this than the viewership numbers for the recent Women’s World Cup, during which the US Women’s National Team claimed the crown -- for the fourth time in eight World Cups -- with a 2-0 win over the Netherlands. Global viewership numbers significantly increased for the tournament as a whole, and the American audience on English-language television for the final was 20 percent higher than the 2018 men’s final.
So now is an amazing time for women’s football -- and for people interested in getting in on the action. Here’s a closer look at the rise of women’s football, along with how studying women’s football can lead to a thrilling career in this red-hot field.
From indifference to excitement
Women’s football (or soccer) wasn’t always so popular. In fact, a mere fraction of people turned out for Women’s World Cup games two decades ago compared to the audiences of today. Briana Scurry, former US goalkeeper, says of playing in the 1995 Women’s World Cup, “To everyone outside of friends and family and the players themselves, it was like a tree falling in the woods that nobody sees or hears. It happened. But nobody saw or heard it.”
Times have changed, and the buzz over women’s football has triggered meteoric growth for the sport. US coach Jill Ellis told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s so different than it was even two World Cups ago in terms of just the depth and the talent and the levels of players out there and the level of teams. It gets more and more competitive and more and more fun and exciting.”
As interest in women’s football has grown, so has investment in it with games all over the world drawing record numbers. It follows that many businesses also want a piece of the pie. Earlier this year, Nike made headlines when it unveiled the first kits specifically designed for women’s teams. Global Categories VP and GM Amy Montagne said, “Right now, we are seeing incredible momentum for women in sport, as athletes lead a movement of health and wellness. We are more committed than ever to using our brand as a catalyst, celebrating athletes, supporting sports and building the best products for women. The landscape of sport is expanding, and Nike is invested in inspiring the next generation of female athletes.”
Meanwhile, opportunities for players have also expanded with the emergence of more youth programs for girls, expanded domestic leagues and improved training facilities. Brandi Christian, who won two World Cups for the USA, enthuses, “What’s amazing about women’s soccer right now is that we finally have players from around the world who have a stage to play on. They have a league to play in, they have a federation that’s supporting women’s soccer and that’s really the difference.”
Bridging the gap
Despite the tremendous progress made by women’s football, there’s still work to be done when it comes to leveling the playing field. Because even as more people are choosing to watch women’s football, men still collect significantly higher paychecks than women, a situation which prompted the U.S. women’s soccer team to file a gender discrimination lawsuit -- timed with International Women’s Day -- against the country’s soccer federation over pay equity and working conditions, such as training facilities, coaching, medical treatment, and travel.
Megan Rapinoe, one of the stars of the recent Women’s World Cup, told the New York Times that the suit is ultimately about leaving the sport in a better place. She declared, “We very much believe it is our responsibility, not only for our team and for future US players, but for players around the world -- and frankly women all around the world -- to feel like they have an ally in standing up for themselves, and fighting for what they believe in, and fighting for what they deserve and for what they feel like they have earned.”
This position is backed by many, from politicians such as the US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to companies such as Nike, which have partnered with grassroots organizations to remove obstacles to girls participation in football.
Additionally, more women are choosing careers in football. One such woman is Arianna Criscione, a 2019 graduate of The Football Business Academy’s (FBA) Professional Master in Football Business. She has just landed not only a job in the sponsorship department of PSG (Paris Saint Germain), home to world-class players such as Cavani, Mbappé, and Neymar, but also, thanks to her previous career as a professional goalkeeper, a playing contract with PSG Féminine, the club’s women’s team.
Like many young girls, Criscione grew up playing and loving football despite encountering some pushback. Criscione was undeterred, and her love of the sport ultimately led her to The FBA. “I couldn’t imagine my life today without the experiences of The FBA. I [was] part of one of the best Football Business Programs in the world and [interned] for the Marketing and Sales Department at Benfica,” she says. “Now I’m playing for one of the best clubs in the world.”
Turning your passion into a career
As women’s football continues to explode, more and more people will want to be a part of it. One way to position yourself for success in an increasingly crowded field of competitors is to follow Criscione’s example and study it. And there’s no better place to acquire the knowledge, skills, and connections you need to launch a career in football than The FBA.
Dedicated entirely to the football industry, The FBA’s innovative programs were developed with industry experts toward a singular objective: to provide an optimal learning environment for participants to get the skills they need to succeed as leaders in the dynamic and competitive world of football.
The school has a global community consisting of candidates of 23 nationalities from five continents; a world-class faculty of highly experienced football industry professionals from around the world; a line-up of esteemed international guest lecturers; and access to a network of more than 2,500 top industry leaders and football organizations. In addition, guaranteed internships and an in-depth student business project connect candidates with the football community. The employment numbers speak for themselves: 90 percent of alumni find a job in the football industry within three months of completing the program.
If you are interested in women’s football, specifically, The FBA’s faculty is unbeatable in this regard. Mayi Cruz Blanco, who boasts an impressive resume in sport business, specifically football business, and is known for her advocacy for Equality for All, teaches Women’s Football Development and Leadership at The FBA. She says, “I believe that creating opportunities for girls and women in football will have a direct impact in bringing our sport to the next level. Football boosts recognition for girls and women and their potential for bringing positive change and impact to society and the wider world.”
And according to Jane Purdon, who was appointed as the first CEO of Women in Football (WiF) last fall, the right leaders will be needed to spur this change. She asserts, “We have all seen from the recent World Cup that Women in Football has taken a step change in terms of interest, popularity and reach. The game is rapidly expanding and professionalizing, and as it does so it will need skilled professionals to drive its future growth.”
She adds, “It’s important that the entire football industry – men’s professional football as well as women’s – is open to all and I would encourage all students, whatever their gender, to look at career opportunities in both additions of the game.”
So the future of women’s football looks very bright. If you’re interested in being a part of it, The Football Business Academy can open the door to tremendous opportunities.
Article written in association with The Football Business Academy.