In recent years, women’s football has attracted increasing interest internationally, and that is why, in many parts of the globe, an attempt is being made to ensure its constant growth, which, hopefully, may bring it to equal its male equivalent: the hope is to see an end to the prejudice that has always afflicted this sport and that even the most diehard will finally admit “football is for everyone” with no distinction based on gender, age, colour, or religion.
What form does this commitment from the world’s football federations to promote women’s football take?
The most recent data we have on a global scale come from the FIFA Women’s Football Survey, a study carried out by FIFA in 2014, to assess the progress of women’s football in the six international federations. This survey revealed interesting data, regarding how women’s football is perceived globally, and which Federations have shown most faith – and continue to do so – in the project to develop the women’s game.
First, the survey shows, out of around 30 million female players worldwide – among registered and unregistered players (a figure extrapolated from the FIFA Big Count) – more than half are in Canada and the United States (15.9 million), whose supremacy in terms of developing women’s football and the number of registered female players (2.3 million out of 4.8 million in total) seems clear.
Therefore, it is the United States and Canada to reign supreme in women’s football worldwide, followed only by UEFA, which can count on 2.1 million registered players (1.3 million according to the UEFA Report on women’s football 2016/2017).
As for female coaches and referees worldwide, the numbers are still low, with female coaches totalling 83,262 – not even 7% of all coaches worldwide – and female referees numbering 76,458 – 10% of referees worldwide.
Here too, however, it is necessary to distinguish CONCACAF and the rest of the world, with the USA and Canada, which can call on 29,500 female coaches and 48,500 female referees, leading the way in this sector too. After them is, once again, UEFA – which, despite counting on many female coaches (33,800), has a limited number of female referees (9,500) – and AFC –around 17,000 female coaches and 16,000 female referees.
These initial figures make clear how women’s football is perceived differently in Canada and the USA compared to the rest of the world: The fact there is one woman for every 160 people registered shows football is not considered as just a men’s sport, and such an attitude ensures that, should a young girl develop a passion for this sport in these countries, she would not be judged badly, but would be encouraged to continue.
Unlike the situation in the rest of the world, in the United States and Canada, women’s football is even more popular than the men’s game, to the extent that, in 2016, a law was approved in the USA that, for the first time, cancelled the salary gap between the men’s and women’s national teams, an extremely important and historic step.
|Despite the clear supremacy of the USA and Canada in almost every area of women’s football, it is in the UEFA community that we can find the most national female championships: Here, over 90% of the countries have an official women’s championship, a sign of the great commitment UEFA has displayed in recent years in realising the female dream.|
There is a slightly different perception of women’s football in Europe, where UEFA launched in 2010 a Development Programme that not all have responded to in the same way (despite UEFA being in second place worldwide regarding the development of this phenomenon).
|Proving UEFA’s commitment in recent years in promoting women’s football through its Women’s Football Development Plan (WFP), the figures from the FIFA Women’s Football Survey confirm an increase in investments by European federations to develop this sport.
UEFA is the federation which believes most strongly in the project to develop women’s football, with a budget of around 100 million euro, 63% of the total spent worldwide for this sport.
Among the UEFA countries, there are six – Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, England, France, and Norway – with over 100,000 registered female players, with Germany the clear leader, at over 200,000.
It is, again, in these countries where European women’s football has its elite, not so much in terms of sporting ability, but for the investments being made to promote this sport, with a clear lead for England (15 million euro), Germany, and France (9 million), three countries where, with such significant investment, it has been easier to achieve noteworthy results, thanks to the merging of female teams with the most important clubs in the top leagues.
And so, in England, stadia sell out for women’s football too, in Germany, in 2013, victory in the UEFA Women’s Euro was celebrated, and in France, 2 teams (Lyons and PSG) made it to the final of the Women’s Champions League 2016/2017.
From these figures, we can state with certainty, despite the situation in women’s football still differing greatly from the men’s game, there is ample room for growth for this sport, and by continuing along the path already undertaken, it will be possible to achieve even more striking results in years to come.