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How Can Students Boost Women's Football?

Women’s football has grown a lot in recent years, especially with the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 tournament, which England won in front of 87,192 fans in a thrilling final at Wembley (and overall 365 million watched across the globe). This was not only one of the various records for women’s football broken during the tournament but is in fact the highest stadium attendance for any European Championship involving men too. It was widely regarded as a seminal moment in the women’s game; a breakthrough into the mainstream.

Apr 4, 2023
  • Education

So, with the potential of women’s football well established, let’s take a look at some of the vital developments pushing the game forward and how you can contribute as a student at The Football Business Academy, pioneers in football business higher education, with more than 70 industry partners worldwide.

One reason given for the disparity in coverage and money in the women’s game compared to the men’s game is the lack of interest. But it is, to some degree, a circular argument - people do not watch it because it is not on… or if it is only on at, say, midnight on an obscure channel. There is much to be said for the ‘build it and they will come attitude’.

This is what happened with the 1999 Women’s World Cup, hosted (and won) by the United States. It had been planned as a fairly small-scale tournament, held in the Northeast of the United States, in stadia with capacities of about 1,500 to 15,000. But the US players and organisers were not happy with that. They made the case to the relevant bodies to host it in much bigger stadia and across the country - and it was granted… though not without trepidation. At the previous World Cup, the biggest crowd they saw was 7,000.

And yet, more than two decades on, broadcasters are, according to FIFA chief Gianna Infantino, offering 100 times less for rights to this year’s Women’s World Cup than the Men’s World Cup. Also, the maximum salary for the FA Women’s Super League is reportedly $250,000, less than ten percent of what the average men’s Premier League player earns.

One such recent ‘build it and they will come’ move, similar to the US women’s team in 1999, to move the women’s game forward has come from sports broadcaster DAZN, which announced it would air all UEFA Women’s Champions League matches for free during last season and this season, as well as 19 of 61 matches for free in the next two seasons (the other 42 on DAZN’s platform). This pioneering move is the first time UEFA has centralized all Women’s Champions League matches across the globe.

We spoke to one woman heavily involved in the growth of women’s football, who is currently enrolled in The FBA’s Professional Master in Football Business, Raquel Pasos. The Nicaraguan fell in love with the game at just three years old, playing against boys, and has been involved in football ever since. She has worked for Adidas in Latin America for nine years; on the FIFA World Cup 2022 Core Team in Latin America; on a girls-only academy called EmpowHER where girls in Panama play without fear of rejection and to build hope for the future. Studying her Masters on the business side of the game she loves at The Football Business Academy is her dream.

“I am excited to see the development towards the professionalization of the game. We are still miles from where we should be, but just being able to watch women play professionally for me is a dream come true.”

“I think the next step should come in the form of both commercial and broadcasting support. Brands and broadcasting companies need to start believing in the women’s game, although return on their investments won’t happen overnight.”

“I joined The FBA with the intention to keep developing myself in the football industry and have a strong backup that allows me to fulfill my lifelong dream of contributing to the women’s game. I plan to put all my learnings at the service of organizations that are fighting for a better world for women in football.” As a mandatory part of the program, Raquel will also experience a guaranteed and bespoke internship in the women’s football department of a top Spanish club in Madrid.

Other positive moves include greater integration and or equality between the men’s and women’s teams of countries and clubs. USA, England (outside of major tournaments), Wales, Brazil, Australia, Norway, Northern Ireland, and New Zealand have all recently announced the move to equal salaries for their players (USA for all sports). Meanwhile, domestic clubs are sharing resources, ideas, training facilities, and stadia between male and female teams.

It is hoped this momentum can be carried over to the forthcoming Women’s World World Cup, taking place in Australia and New Zealand in the summer. For the first time, the Women’s World Cup is officially a standalone product, with its own rights process, as opposed to being packaged along with the men’s tournament. This opens up a lot of opportunities; a chance for the women’s tournament to be marketed and thought of as its own entity, rather than the kind of poor cousin of the man’s tournament, which attracts much criticism, especially the recent World Cup. Women’s football has a great track record (and much more potential) of being used not only as a way to get women into football and sport, but also as a tool for female empowerment in general.

But this separate approach has not come without challenges. FIFA has not been happy about the bids for the broadcasting rights of the tournament, calling on broadcasters to ‘pay what the women’s game deserves’. FIFA's Chief Business Officer Romy Gai pointed to a report showing that 1.12 billion viewers tuned into the 2019 Women's World Cup and discrepancy in broadcasting rights for men and women, citing numbers for matches in the UK showing that while the women’s audience is about a fifth of the men’s audience broadcasters in the UK pay roughly 2% of what they do for the male equivalent. Naturally, FIFA have a vested interest in bringing in finance for the women’s game, but nonetheless the situation is arresting.

“Unfortunately, data is still very hard to acquire in women’s football, but they will need to take that “leap of faith” and trust the return will come. We are 70 years behind, and still trying to catch up to men’s football, so they need to be patient, but I believe we will get there sooner than most people expect.”, says The FBA’s 11th Edition Candidate Raquel Pasos. Despite the challenges, she remains optimistic about the future of women's football and believes that progress is being made: “We can already start seeing amazing figures like the 2022 attendance records of Barcelona Women’s and the Women’s Euro, and we can only expect that this year's World Cup will proves people’s desire to support the growth of the sport.”

“This is not a case of being priced out, but rather testament to a lack of willingness of broadcasters to pay what the women's game deserves," Gai told Bloomberg. "Audience figures show the Women's World Cup 2019 in France was a catalyst for change in terms of TV audience. We know the opportunity for women's football is there. Now, together, we need to capture it."

All this and more was discussed at the Women in Football Be Inspired Conference, which took place at Wembley on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 March. The day was filled with information, advice, and networking opportunities, with Chelsea manager Emma Hayes, former player Kelly Smith MBE, and Sian Massey-Ellis, just the second woman to officiate a men’s Premier League game, among the speakers.

The Football Business Academy

If you are or are aspiring to be a force for change in women’s football, the perfect way to do so is the Professional Master in Football Business from The Football Business Academy. The 12-month program is taught by world-class faculty and industry experts, several of whom are directly involved in women’s football. The degree gives a comprehensive grounding in all areas of football business that can be applied as well to the women’s game as to the men’s, as well as one module specifically dedicated to women’s football development. What’s more, the program includes a four-month guaranteed internship with one of The FBA’s 70-plus partners, so candidates are immersed in the world of football. All this contributes to an unparalleled sports employability rate of 91% (86% in the football industry).

Just one of the many FBA success stories is Arianna Criscione. A 2019 graduate of the Professional Master in Football Business, upon graduating she landed a dual role at PSG, as their goalkeeper as well as a role in charge of sponsorship and women’s business development. For the last 20 months she has been working as director of women’s football for N3XT Sports, a consulting firm specialised in transforming the sports industry.

Speaking of the women’s game, she explains, “I would definitely say there is more opportunity [than obstacle]. I think those opportunities can be refined and we can make them better, which is what we’re actually hoping to do at N3XT Sports and create a more sustainable future for women’s football. There are more clubs, more teams, there are more countries trying to actually professionalise the game, which is a really big step in the right direction and people don’t realise how important that is for the sport.”

Fellow graduate Paula Quintero, valedictorian of the 2021 class, has also played women’s football professionally and works behind the scenes. She says, “I think sport and more specifically football has the power to change the world. There’s a quote by Nelson Mandela that clarifies the impact it has on society. It’s a quote that always stays close to my heart and motivates me to continue to pursue my career in the football industry. “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way little else does.” I truly believe in this because I’ve experienced it many times. Football is the most popular sport in the world, it can change lives and make a positive impact in society globally that is one reason why it’s also known as the beautiful game.”

And Raquel Pasos says, “I came to learn about The FBA through a friend who is an alumnus. I have always wanted to contribute to women’s football development and I am working on the business model of a girls academy in Panama. I wanted to ask for advice and when I called him, he thought The FBA would be a great fit to keep developing my skills and do what I love, and it really has been a great opportunity for that..”

“It has really been a great pleasure to talk about my greatest passion: women’s football. I hope I can keep sharing about this for many years to come and hopefully one day all of our efforts of pushing towards equality in the game can help us transform women’s football, into just football.”

If you want to use football/women’s football to change the world, kick off your career with The Football Business Academy today.

Article written in association with The Football Business Academy.

Joel Durston

Author

Content Manager at Keystone Education Group, living and working in Oslo, Norway. I love helping prospective international students find their dream degree, university, and study destination through articles like these and social media. Outside of work, I enjoy sports, especially football and racket sports, and seeing the world.