Will FIFA’s Female Leadership Program Be A Winner For Women’s Sports?

womens-football

Back in March around the time of International Women’s Day, FIFA officials came together for a conference discussing ways in which they could develop women’s football and to create more opportunities for women in leadership around the world.

It was right before the scandal surrounding corruption amongst the FIFA leaders came to a head when newly re-elected president Sepp Blatter resigned after the US Justice Department launched an investigation into the allegations, since every other footballing country in the world was far too deep in bed with FIFA and therefore too chicken to take on the mighty football federation.

His resignation (thanks John Oliver!) happened right before the Women’s World Cup being held in Canada began and it somewhat started the tournament on a bit of a positive note, despite the players have to be subjected to playing on turf which many highly objected to.

Following on from these recent happenings, FIFA also recently launched a new program designed to amplify women in leadership positions in the sport.

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The Female Leadership Development Program aims to provide support to women across the globe who are looking to become future leaders in football.

“It is crucial for the development of our sport to support the emerging generation of female leaders in football. We are also hoping to see more former players involved in leading roles,” said Sepp Blatter about the initiative. Thanks for that Sepp, we already know how important it is, but do YOU? Oh wait, you resigned so we don’t necessarily care what you think anymore…

The program will see 35 leaders being mentored by more experienced leaders over a period of 9 months to help them develop the skills necessary to not only lead, but create and implement projects of their own that can potentially transform the state of girls and women’s football.

“As reflected in FIFA’s ten key principles for women’s football development, improving the gender balance in football decision-making – including at executive committee level in all governing bodies – will enhance football governance and improve the game overall,” said Moya Dodd, FIFA Executive Committee co-opted member and chair of FIFA’s Task Force for Women’s Football.

This is a major step forward for an organization so steeped in corruption, yet we can’t help wondering whether this is for show to regain a positive reputation for FIFA, or if it has noble intentions.

Now that the football’s governing body is going through some major upheavals in its ranks, some are still concerned that this is not enough.

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Women’s sports advocate Jennifer Matt wrote an insightful blog for the Huffington Post about just how important gender equality is for FIFA beyond just what is declared on paper.

“We need a path to parity for women within FIFA, and hoping FIFA will do the right thing is not a strategy. This is a critical juncture and the right time to start a serious path to parity in FIFA for the women’s game. FIFA needs the equivalent of a global Title IX now,” she writes.

She argues that when women are empowered in the world of sports in an equal manner to men, they are less likely to be sexualized and given permission to learn life skills in a safe and supported environment. And on a professional level, they have the ability to earn a living comparable to that of men.

Jennifer is the creator of a grass roots initiative called Millions of Consumers For Women’s Parity in FIFA where she recently shared an article stating how the Matildas (Australia’s women’s team) receive a base payment from the FFA for an international match of $500, plus a $150 a night living allowance, while the Socceroos (Australia’s men’s team) receive a $6500 base payment for every international game. Pick whatever word you choose – sexism, inequality, fraud, absurdity – the bottom line is this cannot continue to happen under FIFA’s so-called push for equality.

“Widespread participation in sports delivers competent women leaders and contributors to our countries, companies, and communities. Making sports available to all girls is one of the best investments we can make to prepare for an uncertain future that absolutely will require competent and diverse leadership,” she continues in her Huffpost blog, stating that we as consumers also have a crucial role to play in this fight.

Above FIFA are two major groups of people who have even more power – us as consumers who demand the supply according to what we choose to spend our money, time and energy on, and TV networks who supply the demand to consumers. But ultimately we as consumers are at the top of the food chain.

“Yes, we are two levels above Sepp Blatter in the hierarchy, and we should start acting like it. This means we can stop all the silliness of “I hope FIFA is listening” and “we are at FIFA’s mercy.” This is simply not true, and we owe it to every girl on the planet to show them how to exercise their power via a united front,” she urged.

“We have the ability to bring parity for women in FIFA to the table as FIFA is being redefined. Women make more than 80 percent of consumer purchasing decisions. If you watch TV, use a Visa credit card, drink Coke, or wear Nike gear (among many other corporate sponsors), you qualify as a member of the group at the top of the hierarchy that makes this whole system work. We have to act together, and social media gives us the platform to stop talking about the problem and start creating the solution. That’s what people in charge do, they solve problems,” she concluded.

According to her blog, 30 million girls play organized soccer around the world. An estimated 48 percent of all soccer players in the U.S. are girls. FIFA was founded in 1904 (111 years ago); there have been 20 men’s world cup tournaments. The first Women’s World Cup was played in 1991. In the entire history of FIFA, there has been exactly one woman elected to a full term on the executive committee – Lydia Nsekera of Burundi – in 2013. C’mon FIFA, now’s the time for major change, and you have the chance to start all over again at the beginning of this new era.

Yes we need FIFA to act on behalf of the women who deserve to be given equal opportunities for leadership and pay in the world of professional soccer, but that is not enough. History has clearly told us that relying on an organization to take care of business while we sit idly by is not a recipe for success.

On a somewhat related note, if you’ve ever heard the argument that women’s sporting events are just not as exciting and therefore don’t get enough audiences watching, take a look at this brilliant and hilarious take down of a Sports Illustrated writer by Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers. Andy Benoit claims there is nothing in women’s sports worth watching. Well we hope he watches this:

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