women’s football

Day 3 highlights: Ronaldo, Mata, Popal, Verón and more

Day 3 highlights: Ronaldo, Mata, Popal, Verón and more 1242 565 WFS Live

Day 3 of WFS Live powered by R9 saw former and current football legends take the virtual stage to address both on the field and both the field topics. Rebecca Smith and Khalida Popal discussed the best way for women’s football to tackle Covid-19 and continue its growth path during a panel sponsored by Visa, Juan Sebastián Verón explained how a good education boosted him from the youth teams of Estudiantes to the Chairman’s office in a panel sponsored by Johan Cruyff Institute, whilst Ronaldo and Juan Mata shared their experiences as social activists in a panel sponsored by Santander.

Ronaldo Nazário on how Covid-19 will impact football for good organisations:
“Covid-19 is going to make a big impact on foundations and NGOs because the companies that fund these organisations have suffered a big blow and we know that whenever there is a crisis the first thing they cut is donations. What we have to do as foundations is to find solutions, find ways of proposing new projects. With Fundação Fenômenos we are developing channels and platforms to try to identify where people are suffering most in Brasil and do our best to provide assistance. It’s not what we normally do, but it is what is required. There are a lot of communities in Brasil that have no assistance and we have to provide them with an opportunity to overcome this crisis with dignity.”

Juan Mata on players becoming increasingly involved in social causes
“There are a number of reasons that explain why athletes’ voices are becoming more influential. Social media has become a very important tool for professional footballers and athletes in general, and, as we are seeing with all the young players joining Common Goal lately, players are realising that when you are a footballer you have a very powerful platform. When you state your views, people listen, and a lot of players are starting to use that power to speak up for social causes. I think this is already a trend, and I think that it is going to grow even more in the coming years. More players will realise the power they have to reach people, because in that sense nothing matches the power of sports and football.”

Juan Sebastián Verón (Club Estudiantes) on the need for clubs to ensure their player’s education
“At Estudiantes we use football as a vehicle to educate kids. We receive kids from all types of places, some of them with important needs, and it’s important that we ensure that when they leave they have finished secondary school, which is the minimum needed to get a job. I think that’s what the club has to do, and I think the kids have the right to receive that education. They’re going to invest around 10 years chasing a dream that may never come true. If that happens, I want them to know that the club gave them the chance to finish school and go back home with something. If they get to be players, that will be excellent, but if they don’t make it we want them to have another opportunity in life.”

Tatjana Haenni (Swiss Football Federation) on the need for football organisations to talk less and do more
“If you talk to male players, they are usually super supportive and helpful. If you talk to people in society, they are open to women sports. If you talk to people in the economy they see the benefits as well. It’s developing everywhere, but where we still struggle is in places in which changes could be made immediate and that’s sports organisations. These organisations quite often in my opinion do a bit more talking than actually doing. They could really reinforce the case of women’s sports much quicker and put the right structures in place.”

Toni Ordinas (Lillestrøm Sportsklubb), on how Bepro is revolutionising data analysis in football
“During more than 20 years I had the feeling that I just watched the matches, didn’t analyze the matches. With Bepro this has changed. For the first time I have the chance to see what happens on the pitch, what players do and how they interact. In youth football it’s important that we not just look at the physical parameters but also the fundamentals, this is the most important thing when you are developing a player.”

Mic Conetta (Arsenal FC) on using data to build fan engagement
“Clubs have to balance the amount of information that is available to them and really focus on what part of that information is going to drive and build out that fan experience and nurture and develop the relationship with the fans, because you can go down a lot of rabbit holes chasing a lot of data that won’t deliver much value back to either the club or the relationship with the fans.”

Iván Codina (LaLiga), on how LaLiga kept its fans engaged during the Covid-19 lockdown  
“At the beginning our main focus was definitely to show our commitment with the fight against Covid-19, specially with the dramatic situation that we had in Spain. That was our main focus. After that we were also able to provide content around the protocols for clubs to resume training and the restart of competitions, and also on all the initiatives that our clubs carried out around the restart of LaLiga.”

Ale Xavier (Desimpedidos) on how Covid-19 is forcing media companies to reinvent themselves 
“In the pandemic, more than ever, we need to reinvent ourselves, produce different content related to sports and leverage tools that already existed but we didn’t know how to use. We also need to make the best use of all available platforms.”

Dani Alves (Brasil National Team) on the need to come together to make real impact
“Individual voices don’t make much of an impact. They need to be together and in different parts of the world. All lives matter. We are in 2020 debating about the same things and haven’t evolved yet. We have to position ourselves as humans and not as football players or a sports athlete in general.”

Experts call for women’s football to receive more investment during the Covid-19 crisis

Experts call for women’s football to receive more investment during the Covid-19 crisis 1237 588 WFS Live

While the coronavirus crisis has impacted sport at all levels, the effects on women’s football have been especially severe and this is why industry experts have called for there to be even more investment in the women’s game than in the men’s game at this time. Given the weaker fundamental structures of women’s football, equal investment wouldn’t even be enough. Instead, the argument is that there’s a need for the authorities to put greater resources into women’s sport.

This was one of the main talking points during the ‘Women’s Sport: The Necessary Steps For A Progressive Future’ panel during WFS Live powered by Ronaldo, which was moderated by Alexandra Gómez Bruinewoud, senior legal counsel at FIFPro. It had Tatjana Haenni, director of women’s football at the Swiss Football Association, Bex Smith, global director of the women’s game at COPA90, Khalida Popal, founder and director of the Girl Power Organisation, and Jorge Garbajosa, president of the Spanish Basketball Federation, as guests.

As Gómez Bruinewoud explained: “At FIFPro, we have been studying women’s football in general, but also we’ve put a little bit more interest on the effects of COVID-19 on women’s football. Of course, as everyone who is interested in football in general and in women’s football in particular, we were really really worried about what would happen. We did some research and what we’re encouraging and suggesting is that actually, in this moment, it’s not enough to say ‘ok, we’ll invest the same in women’s football’, which is not even the case by far anywhere. It should be even more! They need extra support because the structures are weak and the basis is still not there.”

In certain countries, solid structures are in place and Smith raised the positive example of the DFB, the German federation. She said: “I think the structures need to be in the right place. If you have the right structures then a great example of that is what the DFB did with the solidarity fund that the top four clubs then distributed and it actually went to women’s football because that was the equitable thing to do.”

Such a positive example is rare, though, and the panelists agreed with the need for financial backing of women’s sport at this time. “To really convince the last people who are still not seeing the opportunity and the potential, we need some money coming into women’s football and you can actually make a business case, but you need a decent plan,” said Haenni.

It’s not only about financially supporting women’s sport during the times of COVID-19. It’s about doing so at all times. Encouragingly, Garbajosa revealed that the Spanish Basketball Federation were thinking about this issue even before the pandemic and they realised that there was a need to not just fund women’s basketball equally, but to actually allocate a little more to the women’s game.

We are investing a little bit more in women’s basketball than in men’s basketball,” Garbajosa told the WFS Live audience. “In terms of the commitment of the men’s basketball players with the women, here in Spain in our federation it is 100 percent. When they get a bonus, the bonuses for the men and the women are completely equal. The money that they get for every day that they practice or play games is completely equal also. It’s a matter of being fair because the effort they show on the court every day is the same so they have to get the same from our federation.”

Ultimately, having more women in leading roles will help to bring about the positive changes that are needed and this was another takeaway that the panelists agreed upon. “I think it’s very important to create more job opportunities and educational opportunities for women to gain the skills to be more involved in developing the women’s game, as we need more women,” Popal concluded.

This panel took place during the third day of WFS Live, which is running from Monday July 6th to Friday July 10th. It is still possible to buy a ticket here, with all net proceeds to be donated to Fundação Fenômenos and the Common Goal COVID-19 Response Fund.

Quotes from the ‘Women’s Sport: The Necessary Steps For A Progressive Future’ panel

Tatjana Haenni, on the business case for women’s football:
“I think women’s football is a business case. I think it’s the biggest growth opportunity in terms of participation, sponsorships, partnerships, media partnerships. If you don’t have a proper business plan and investment behind then you just don’t get the results as quickly as you can. If I look at the FIFA Women’s World Cup as an example. It still doesn’t have its own sponsorship packages. It’s not unbundled as far as I know. That might have reasons for it because maybe the contracts are so long that they can’t unbundle it. But, I haven’t really seen a plan. Whereas, at the UEFA level, you see that there are specific sponsors for the Women’s Euros. So, there is the momentum for a commercial business case for women’s football.”

Bex Smith, on the media’s role in setting and defining value:
“Actually, media has an even bigger role to play than just giving visibility. I think that just in the way how media divides the time that women get and men get, that puts a value on it. [It suggests] that men are actually worth more and valued more and that people should then invest more in the men’s side of the game.”

Khalida Popal, on unhelpful comparisons between women’s and men’s football:
“Media has a huge impact on women’s football. It helps women’s football a lot, but we have to also understand that the way some media communicate is wrong. We have to stop comparing women’s football and men’s football. Women’s football is a beautiful product. We have to communicate it and we have to sell the story differently. Most of the media channels are making the mistake of comparing women’s football. That’s why we’re getting hurt in terms of sponsorship deals, in so many ways and also getting fans.”

Jorge Garbajosa, on investing in women’s sport for the right reasons:
“Sometimes, from the men’s point of view, the investment in women’s sport is like a kind of charity. No, it’s not a charity. It’s a strategic pillar of the development, at least in Spain, of our sport. Here, there’s no difference between men or women. Our goal is to develop our sport and one of the main pillars is women’s basketball as we try to reach our goals.”

Alexandra Gómez Bruinewoud, on how some women footballers are more political in the media:
“We’re seeing in women’s football lots of very highly educated women that have a lot to say and probably that’s also connected to how they’re expressing themselves in the media, how they put through strong messages, how they’re a little bit more political if you want to describe it in a word maybe. I think it was, I don’t know if surprising, but something to highlight and pay attention to if we looked at the awards of The Best of FIFA, where Messi won The Best for the male players and Megan Rapinoe for the women players. Then, you looked at their speeches. Without needing to compare them, you see how different they were. Rapinoe was really giving a political stand, whereas Messi was not and was giving more of a personal speech.”

Day 1 Highlights: Tebas, Sir Martin Sorrell, Desiree Bellia, Butragueño and more

Day 1 Highlights: Tebas, Sir Martin Sorrell, Desiree Bellia, Butragueño and more 1238 583 WFS Live

The first ever edition of WFS Live kicked off today with seven panels featuring top-notch leaders from properties such as LaLiga, FIFA or Real Madrid and companies such as S4 Capital or Eleven Sports. Speakers discussed deeply around the impact of Covid-19 on different areas of the sport and the industry such as European competitions, women’s football, media rights, the transfer market or player’s salaries. Here are some of the main highlights of Day 1:

Javier Tebas (LaLiga), on Covid-19 and the transfer market

“There will be some transfers, but those which each club can manage economically. But big signings paid in money, we’re not going to see that. One of 100 million euros is impossible. And those above 50 million euros, we’ll be able to count on the fingers of your hands and mine.”

Ornella D. Bellia (FIFA) on the lessons learned from Covid-19

“One of the lessons of Covid-19 is that more women leadership positions are needed to help deal with crisis situations. If you look at the countries with some of the best Covid-19 responses, they are countries lead by women. If you look at Germany, but also New Zealand, Iceland… These countries stood out for their prompt, efficient and effective response tu the crisis.”

Ebru Koksal (Women in Football) on the lack of support mechanisms for women in the industry

“I didn’t have a good support mechanism, I didn’t have a mentor, I didn’t have another women in the Board of Directors, I didn’t have anyone to got to, I was all alone. It’s so difficult to survive in that environment because everyone is trying to crush you. It’s very hard to survive unless you have the support mechanisms, but also equally important is having self awareness in your leadership journey.”

Magda Pozzo (Udinese & Watford), on women thriving in innovative areas of the business

“We need to do more as women, we need to create a movement, but I think it’s just a natural development of the business. I think we’re seeing a change with so many innovative areas of the business growing. Areas in which women are very good, so it’s going to come very natural. I’m very positive and very optimistic about that.”

Sir Martin Sorrell (S4 Capital) on the effects of Covid-19 on football

“In my view there are too many football clubs, they have to be consolidated. Players are probably over-remunerated, they will have to be remunerated in different ways. The leagues are going to have to be run more efficiently and professionally because the competition is going to be huge.”

Paul Barber (Brighton & Hove Albion) on Covid-19 being a wake-up call for the football industry

“One of the problems for some years is that clubs have been living beyond their means, they’ve been spending more money than they’ve been bringing in and relying on either player sales to get out of trouble at the end of each season or an uplift in TV or sponsorship income. I think that perhaps this is a wake-up call for all of us to manage our business more prudently that we’ve done in the past. We’re all guilty at some point of just stretching that little bit too far.”

Emilio Butragueño (Real Madrid) on the lessons learned from Covid-19

“The first lesson is that what seems imposible is possible, everything can change overnight. The second is our ability to overcome difficulties. We’ve been able to comeback and we should be very proud. The third lesson is that we have to be united. When we are united, we win. I think these are the three lessons of this period.”

Luigi de Laurentiis (SSC Bari) on the impact of Covid-19 on player salaries

“Salaries will probably be going down around 20-25 percent, which would help. I think overall if we’re talking about big players they will keep their value, but definitely in the shorter period we’re definitely going to see some minor numbers in that department. So yes, I think salaries and transfers will be affected for now.”