It’s a well known fact that women have been sidelined in the sporting world. However, what appears to be an attempt to rebrand itself as a supporter of the ‘woman’s cause’, FIFA announced its first ever global strategy for women’s football, in what it describes as a attempt to “realise the full potential that exists within the women’s game”.
The strategy will lay out a mechanism for the organisation to work with clubs and players, the media, confederations and member associations, fans and other stakeholders. According to FIFA, ‘empowerment’ will be the main outcome for girls and women involved in the sport. The key elements of the strategy has been defined as advancing “empowerment through football, growing the game, getting more girls involved in it earlier and keeping women in football longer”.
“As FIFA’s first female Secretary General I am proud to launch our first-ever global strategy for women’s football”, said FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura, “The women’s game is a top priority for FIFA and via our new strategy we will work hand-in-hand with our 211 member associations around the world to increase grassroots participation, enhance the commercial value of the women’s game and strengthen the structures surrounding women’s football to ensure that everything we do is sustainable and has strong results. Most importantly it will make football more accessible to girls and women and encourage female empowerment, a subject of great importance, now more than ever before.”
FIFA has been through a few PR crises in the past few years, in particular with the resignation of the controversial ex-President Sepp Blatter, who was known for his derogatory remarks about women. Following his departure, FIFA has attempted to create a better and more female-friendly image for itself. In 2016, the organisation established its first ever Women’s Football Division Chief Women’s Football Officer, Sarai Bareman.
The organisation aims to create an international women’s club competition, with new competitions such as a ‘FIFA Women’s World League’ being considered as a part of a review. Additionally, FIFA wants to double the global participation of women by two-fold to 60 million by 2026.
Other aims include a broader representation of women in their regulatory framework, with a goal of at least one third of FIFA committee members to be women by 2022.
This strategy has been met with both praise and criticism. In the past several years, football’s governing body has been attempting to address the women’s side of the game, in part as a response to calls for equality.
Former US national soccer player Abby Wambach wants more details. “Whenever we’re talking about these big sweeping changes, for FIFA it’s a huge deal, but I also want to see it actually happen. I want to see not only the growth of the game, but I also want to see money get into the hands of women who are actually growing it”, said Wambach.
This strategy, while commendable, right now is only words on a paper. We need to see measurable progression in the exposure of women’s football and improvement in opportunities for female players.