Legacy at the heart as Menzies takes learnings home to Women’s World Cup hosts

  • New Zealand football administrator Laura Menzies is a passionate advocate for women's football

  • Recently took part in the Women in Football Leadership Programme co-hosted by FIFA and UEFA

  • Menzies is playing a role in helping build the game either side of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

It’s fair to say football has been an integral part of Laura Menzies’ life since she could walk. An ardent Chester City supporter in her native England, Menzies has been consistently watching, playing, coaching or administering football virtually without stop since those formative years. Her football journey has reached a crescendo in recent times with appointment as CEO of Northern Region Football – the largest regional football entity in New Zealand – and participation in the recent FIFA/UEFA Women in Football Leadership Programme. The coming year promises even more milestone experiences with the looming FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in both Australia and, in her home of 16 years, New Zealand. A passionate advocate for women’s football, Menzies is savouring the opportunity to help build the local game and leave a lasting legacy for her adopted home.

Menzies recently had the opportunity to play a role in laying out one of the primary legacy pillars when Northern Football co-hosted a pilot grassroots program aimed at engaging New Zealand’s Maori community. The region is home to a large indigenous community, a sector of society that has traditionally gravitated towards rugby or netball. “Partnering with Māori – we are a bicultural population - is crucial and also understanding that football is a vehicle to connect with, to serve, and to support a whole range of diverse communities who choose to live in Auckland or Northland or in New Zealand,” Menzies told FIFA.com. “Football is a way to feel connected to a new place, to feel connected to where they may have moved from in the world. Football can be that kind of language and expression, and language for settling and I think that's the real power of football.”

Menzies was recently in Switzerland for the Women in Football Leadership Programme – an experience that proved to be both inspirational and enlightening. “I've never been in a room of people before that are all women and all work in football - you are only ever two, three or four, not 30-odd,” Menzies said. “It was an incredible experience and really fascinating to meet people from around the world with the common factor that we were women in football. “The [upcoming] Euros in England are going to be fantastic – a huge showcase. Obviously the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is going to be incredible but we are all still charging a new path. So this is probably why sometimes we say ‘it can be challenging and it is new and we are trying to do things differently’, but having that connection with like-minded women around the world and that space to reflect who you are as a leader, and what you're trying to achieve, was a great opportunity for that week.”

It was an incredible experience and really fascinating to meet people from around the world with the common factor that we were women in football."

As a football missionary of sorts, Menzies is relishing the opportunity to help grow women’s football on the back of a unique opportunity offered by the hosting of the world's biggest stand-alone women’s sporting event. “I think that the majority of people don't necessarily have a sense of how incredible and huge the tournament will be. The recent women's Cricket World Cup [in New Zealand] was an incredible event with huge viewing figures, sold-out stadiums as soon as they could. But FIFA is just a next level again, so that the buzz around that tournament and the kind of the opportunities that can create are massive. “And it isn't just 12 months – and there is only so much we can do in the next 12 months - the point is the legacy goes on for years afterwards. “These events will not come around often. The Women’s World Cup will grow and grow and grow, and it might be that this is the only opportunity to host an event of this scale so we have to get legacy right. “We have to think about legacy for the years ahead. Yes, we do all we can in the next 12 months but we absolutely need to continue to push on and we prioritise it across football across the whole country.”

Lausanne, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 29: “UEFA Women in Football Leadership Programme, on March 31, 2022, at the IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland. (Photo by Kristian Skeie - UEFA)