The FIFA Task Force for Women’s Football was set up last year in a step towards developing a vision and strategy for the future of women’s football. The Task Force identified ten key principles for the development of women’s football, which have been discussed and recognised by the FIFA Executive Committee. Moya Dodd, who chairs the Task Force and is a co-opted member of the FIFA Executive Committee and also an AFC Vice President, discusses with FIFA.com some of the proposed principles, the progress made by the Committee and the global growth of women’s football.
FIFA.com: The Task Force for Women’s Football has identified ten key principles for the development of women’s football. Can you provide a general overview of some of the key areas?
Moya Dodd: The key themes are about recognising the enormous opportunities that women’s football offers, and focussing on how to take them. Men’s football is so big and established that sometimes the women’s game looks like a little add-on activity that doesn’t get much focus. But in fact, we have the best game in the world, and only half the population engaged. It would be like selling Coca-Cola only to men – you’d be missing a huge opportunity. So, inclusion and development of what is an emerging market in women’s football are major themes of the principles.
What areas or innovations included in the key principles are you particularly excited about that could help take women’s football to another level?
One concept is that football everywhere should be as accessible to girls as it is to boys. Imagine if every little girl in the world could play grassroots football, in line with her age, ability and ambition. Participation would grow enormously, and technical standards would increase very rapidly.
Another is that each member association should have a specific plan for women’s football, in order to capture the opportunity. The game deserves to have a proper blueprint in place, in each member association. There are not enough women involved in football nor enough women’s football structures and plans in place.
Importantly, we also believe women should be represented in decision-making roles, including on the Executive Committee, in all Member Associations (MAs), etc. FIFA itself has done this, and the FIFA President continues to be very supportive. There are many studies that show that gender diversity leads to positive outcomes, and this is also true in football. Of course, some MAs have already done this, for good reason.
How important is it to get all the Member Associations onboard, and what sort of challenges are there in this regard?
It’s very important. That is why we are focussing at the principles level first, because each MA is unique in its situation and culture, and can take and apply the principles accordingly. At the same time, FIFA plays an important part, and our competitions, development and other divisional resources are there to assist. But this needs to occur in the context of a clear plan, so that activities are well co-ordinated and effective.
I believe that most MAs already recognise the great opportunity in women’s football and want to grow the game, but often they may lack know-how and resources, etc. The principles will assist in turning that recognition into action so that together we can accelerate progress.
Can you take us through the process in having the key principles approved?
The principles came out of discussions and consultations among the Task Force and various stakeholders, then were taken to the Committee for Women’s Football and the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ for consultation and endorsement. In March, I presented them to the FIFA Executive Committee, with the support of my female ExCo colleagues Lydia Nsekera and Sonia Bien-Aime. It was agreed that the principles be recognised, and be put to the FIFA Congress in June for information. I’m very grateful for the support of our Executive Committee colleagues, and I have had many positive messages from the football family around the world who are happy to see women’s football on the agenda at the highest level. I’m hoping it will be another historic day for women in Sao Paulo in June.
What are some of the topics that the Task Force has been asked to look at?
There are many. We’ve looked at how to develop more leaders for the women’s game, especially among ex-players who have commitment and accumulated expertise, and among female coaches who are visible leaders and role models. We’ve considered how to better commercialise and market major competitions in the elite game, which is these days very exciting for broadcasters and fans. We are working with the experts in FIFA Administration on these issues and more. Women’s football exists and is rapidly growing, but is far short of its potential. We can rapidly improve with initiatives that address respective structures, strategies and resources.
There has also been very passionate discussion about how football can give back to society, especially for women and girls. We should not forget, that women in football and women’s football is still discriminated against in many parts of the world. Making the game truly accessible to females is a profound message to the world that in our game, no woman will be subject to discrimination or disadvantage because of her gender. That makes football not only a leader in sport, but also a leader in society.
It is still early days for the Task Force, and we wanted to begin by setting principles rather than try to solve issues at ground level. But we are keen to continue our work and progress the various ideas that have come to us.
You have been around women’s football for a long time and witnessed many changes. How exciting have the past few years been for the game’s growth?
Women’s football is actually quite a young sport at the level of global organisation. FIFA’s first women’s tournament was only held in 1988. Since then, the growth has been quite exponential. I played in that first tournament, in front of thousands of schoolchildren who had been brought in to watch. Now, the FIFA Women’s World Cup fills stadia with paying customers and millions watching on TV. I’m really excited to see the game develop for fans, because that means we will attract sponsors and revenues to enable the game to become a professionalised showcase, so every little girl in the world can dream of being a footballer.
We see the beginnings of what is already developed in men’s football - professional leagues, player agents, transfer fee discussions, issues with the women’s international calendar, but at the same time, women who are not allowed to play football, who are punished because of her love for the sport, or simply are not integrated and supported within football organisations. That is what drives me. Things have never been better, but I wake up every day knowing there is much more to be done to further develop our game. It’s a very exciting time to be in women’s football.