The 5th FIFA Women’s Football Symposium has concluded in successful fashion following three days of forums, presentations, workshops and panel discussions. The first such event in four years, since the last was held in China PR, focused primarily on methods in which women’s football can be further developed.
Held over three days in Frankfurt, the Symposium, which coincided with the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final™ between USA and Japan, saw some 500 representatives from the world’s Member Associations gather to examine methods to grow the women’s game.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter officially closed the 2011 event on the third day, where he was warmly received by a full auditorium. Joined briefly on stage by Germany 2011 Local Organising Committee President Steffi Jones, the FIFA President passionately extolled the virtues of women’s football, and at the same time pointed to this month’s tournament as evidence of strong growth.
“Now we have a final featuring east, where the sun rises, and west,” said President Blatter of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final participants. “From one side of our globe to the other.
“Here I make an appeal to national associations, which is why we asked you all to be present. It’s essential to have organised leagues in your associations, because only when we have leagues will you get relevant development and experience to then compete in international competitions.”
The final abbreviated day commenced with Worawi Makudi, Chairman of the Committee for Women’s Football and the FIFA Women’s World Cup, introducing the remaining topic, ‘Women's Football - a professional sport?’. Makudi expressed a vision of further developing women’s club football as the next crucial step, saying “the clubs are the nucleus of football and also for producing players”.
Joining Makudi on stage for an interactive forum were experienced administrators from Sweden, USA and Germany, plus Swiss footballer Marina Keller, who was able to provide a perspective on the difficulties of making a professional living from the game. The other participants were: Susanne Erlandsson, Vice-President of the Swedish FA and a member of FIFA's Women's Football Committee and the Organising Committee for the FIFA Women's World Cup; Kathy Carter, President of Soccer United Mkt MLS; Doreen Meier, Head Coach and Head of Sport and women's football at Bayer Leverkusen.
The representatives, from what are three leading nations in the women’s game, were able to offer input on the game’s development in their own nations on this, the 20th anniversary of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. “I look at how far we have come since 1991 in terms of TV coverage [in USA], in comparison to this tournament and it is quite extraordinary,” said Carter, a USA-based marketing representative. Among the many interesting matters discussed were the importance of a Professional League for women's football, the related obstacles and challenges, and also opportunities for the development of women's football.
Day two was a full schedule for the attendees, who heard topics delivered across a variety of key areas which can underpin growth in the game. FIFA Directors delivering topics were Nicolas Maingot (Communication), Niclas Ericson (TV) and Thierry Weil (Marketing), who each introduced over-arching principles in their respective fields.
Representatives make their point
Engaging South African TV journalist Carol Manana again was at the podium to moderate the day’s proceedings. Starting off as the first topic of the second day, and the third major topic in total, was ‘Promote the Game – Communication’. Respected BBC journalist Eleanor Oldroyd facilitated an interactive discussion with representatives from Costa Rica, Scotland, England, Australia, USA, South Africa, Germany and Jordan, who provided their personal experiences.
These included: Yolanda Camacho-Kortman, a member of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Costa Rica 2014 Organising Committee; Clare Bodel from the Scottish FA; Jen O’Neill of the English magazine She Kicks; Mark Jensen from the Football Federation Australia; Amanda Vandervort, representing USA's Major League Soccer; Velile Mbuli of SABC Radio in South Africa; Jana Wiske of the German magazine Kicker; Rana Husseini from the Jordan FA.
Following lunch, which provided the opportunity to further develop relationships and share material between the Member Associations, the focus turned to the importance of TV. Moderated by Andrew Croker, Laurent-Eric LeLay of Eurosport (France), Andreas Lauterbach from ZDF (Germany), Scott Gugliemino of ESPN (USA) and Hans Pekkari from TV4 (Sweden) all spoke on the significance of working with TV to increase exposure.
The day concluded with ‘Promote the Game – Sponsoring’, with discussion about the marketing structure that was the keystone behind the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011, and the need to build the game to attract corporate partners. Representatives from Coca-Cola (Irene Ruprecht), Adidas (Markus Baumann), DFB Marketing (Patrick Kisko) as well as from the South Africa and Paraguay FA's (Fran Hilton Smith and Carlos Caceres respectively), engaged in a sometimes robust interactive discussion.
“We need to promote this game but before you can sell women’s football in your country, you need to declare your interest and then the partners will come on board,” said Weill, FIFA Director Marketing.
The 2011 Symposium proved to be a highly successful and informative forum, with the hunger of many attendees to grow the game accentuated by the enormous success of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.