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World Football Summit: The future of women’s professional football

A panel of experts from the world of media (DAZN) and governing bodies such as UEFA and Liga MX discussed future steps to assist with the growth of women's football.

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World Football Summit: The future of women’s professional football

Women's football and the future of the game was one of the key topics discussed on the main stage on the opening day of the 2021 World Football Summit. This year the event is being held at Atlético Madrid's Wanda Metropolitano stadium, with delegates present after last year's edition was forced online due to the covid pandemic.

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Focusing on what the future could, and should, look like for women’s football, a panel of experts from media and governance discussed the growing responsibilities of each and every stakeholder in the game with the next steps providing decisive in shaping women’s football for decades to come.

Emma Sykes (UEFA): The European Championship in 2017 staged in The Netherlands was seen by many as a watershed moment in terms of growth for women's football. In the past four years, we've seen four times more women and girls taking up football and at a much faster rate than boys and men. That's a huge statistic and we're now starting to see more and more top division men's clubs with a women's team. 

Arbesa Kastrati (DAZN): (On partnership to show the Women's UEFA Champions League to help visibility). This is a three way partnership with ourselves, UEFA and YouTube as well. We will offer all games completely free on our YouTube channel for two years with the hope that in the final two years of the deal, the audience will migrate to the channel. We wanted to make women's football  accessible, make it visible. The initial reaction from sponsors has been incredible which reinforces the point about the women's game being untapped and throwing up new avenues of opportunity.

Eugenia Károlyi Popcev (journalist): "It was so encouraging to see earlier this year that the FC Barcelona Femini jersey (with a different sponsor to the men's version) was completely sold out after their Champions League win and we saw male Barça supporters buying big sizes... XXL even, as they were so delighted after the achievement of the women's team and they were proud to wear the shirt. This taps into the data that claims that the television audience for the women's game is 60% male.

Mariana Gutierrez Bernardez (Liga MX): "Investment is key in growing anything not just in the world of sport and the women's game opens a new world of opportunity for brands. We also need to remember that much of the younger audience won't watch a full game which lasts 90 minutes so we need to look at other aspects such as selling the game via social media and attractive highlights packages."

Thomas Fleurot (Manager Portas Consulting): "I think we no longer have to demonstrate the potential and that although a current audience already exists and there's a whole untapped market. Now it's about all of the different parts of the game stepping up via investment at all levels. The DAZN video about more eyes encapsulates this perfectly...with more eyes, you get more sponsors, then you get more investment into grassroots football which generates better players, it all works together. I remember how a few years ago Besiktas in Istanbul were seen as pioneering in creating a women's team in Turkey. Fast forward to the modern day and all the major Super Lig clubs have created a women's team. It just took a brave step and now others are waking up to the fact that investment can lead to long term potential. Besiktas were brave and that is the key going forward".