Some 500 delegates from all corners of the globe gathered in Frankfurt for the 5th FIFA Women’s Football Symposium, with the ongoing growth and development of the women’s game the primary focus.
Two days out from the pinnacle of the women’s game – the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final – representatives of the world’s Member Associations convened for the three-day event. The over-arching objectives of the 2011 Symposium are analysing competition structure, increasing participation and promotion of the game. The event is an interactive format, split between presentations, workshops and panel discussions.
More particularly the Symposium provides a forum to exchange experiences and information, assess progress made in women’s football and look at ways to empower women and girls in the game. All of which is keeping with the declaration of FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter that “Football is for all.”
Hosted by South African TV presenter Carol Manana, the day’s proceedings commenced with, aptly given the success of Germany 2011, a welcome from German FA President, Dr Theo Zwanziger. There followed a welcome speech from Worawi Makudi, Chairman of the Committee for Women's Football and the FIFA Women's World Cup, who offered a warm greeting to the attendees.
Despite the recent significant growth in the game, Mr Makudi encouraged Member Associations to continue promoting women’s football. “Women’s football in recent years has grown to become the world’s number one participation sport for females,” said Mr Makudi. “It is now time that all parties involved in women’s football increase their support and resources and adapt their structures in order to support the further growth and development of the sport.”
Four years on from the last Symposium, held during China 2007, women’s football has grown exponentially across the globe from the grassroots to the most elite international level. In that time, there has been an increase to 24 in the number of participants for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup was held and the FIFA women’s international match calendar was introduced.
Next on the agenda were two engaging keynote speeches from Dr Zwanziger and Burundi FA President Lydia Nsekera, who both shared a variety of personal experiences. The former talked of the importance of competition structure and high profile role-models, as seen at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup with the likes of Kim Kulig and Fatmire Bajramaj, while the latter spoke of her experiences as one of the few female Presidents of a Member Association.
Speeches and hot topics
The first major topic of the 2011 Symposium was ‘Structure of women’s football in the Member Associations,’ which was presented by Thierry Regenass, FIFA Director, Member Associations & Development. The attendees then enjoyed an engaging panel discussion hosted by well-known South African journalist Mark Gleeson concerning competition structure in various nations. Offering comment and input based on a broad variety of experiences in their own countries was a diverse panel comprising Isabelle Hochstoger (Austria), Moya Dodd (Australia) Shaikha Al Khalifa (Bahrain), Dominique Maestracci (Canada), Jacqueline Gertse (Namibia) and Beverly Priestman (New Zealand).
The afternoon session began with the second topic ‘Increasing participation and competitions’ introduced by Mustapha Fahmy, FIFA Director of Competitions. There followed a fascinating keynote address from Kelly Simmons, Head of National Game, England FA, who spoke about how women’s football participation rates have been stimulated in recent years and the establishment of the new English national competition, the Women’s Super League.
Also providing input on their experiences were Steffi Jones, Germany 2011 Local Organising Committee President, and Republic of Ireland FA representative Susanne Ronan. Day one concluded with Member Association representatives splitting into groups and working on problem solving through a variety of case studies and providing feedback to the other attendees.
The second and final full day will include key topics such as Media, Communications and Member Association responsibility.