BIHUB PATH

November 8, 2021

Events

“Women’s football will be mainstream in 2030”

By BIHub Team.

Albert Mundet, director of the Barça Innovation Hub, presented the V edition of the Sports Tomorrow Congress, reminding that it is essential to promote the culture of collaboration in the sporting field. These conferences are used to learn about the trends that will transform the world of sports. And this year the central theme of all of them will revolve around the greatest revolution that contemporary sports has known: the incorporation of women into professional categories that were practically reserved for men.

Women’s sports are experiencing a continuous promotion and nothing reflects it better than the appearance of women in highly responsible positions. Ebru Köksal is a perfect example. She is the financial director of the Galatasary. In a digital interview, the executive has recognized that her professional career has gone through few obstacles due to her gender. In fact, she temporarily held the top positions of responsibility in the football world until she was able to settle in and establish her position for many years.

Apart from the Turkish club, she has had responsibilities in the executive committee of the European Club Association, FIFA and the Turkish Football Federation. In all these institutions, generally dominated by men, Köksal has revealed that she has had as many “fantastic” days as “terrible days,” but made the decision to be “cooperative” rather than “challenging.” She understood that it was better to “work to find solutions instead of challenging men over any type of discrimination or non-inclusive behaviour.”

The incorporation of women into upper sports management has a strong point insofar as the diversity of thought that is achieved. As she explained, women are capable of asking legitimate questions and are not afraid to be excluded from the main circles or cliques that dominate sports spheres for the simple reason that they have never belonged to them. Her new approaches involve more collaborative, challenging and innovative contributions.

The same happens with athletes. They add more value to the media that follow them because they are professionals who do not feel vulnerable by sharing their bad streaks or their concern for the future. They are more open to talking about topics that for others are taboo.

The future of women’s football is seen with great optimism. She believes that it is like a start-up that faces large corporations and makes the comparison between a sailboat and the Titanic, since female clubs are more agile and with smaller investments can generate more sustainability. They also have more direct income because they encourage more participation and a sense of community among their fans.

That’s why she thinks that the ideal time to invest in women’s football is “yesterday.” The ones who did so are now starting to pick up, she declared. There is very promising data. It has been studied that advertising in the female sections generates more consumption among those who receive it and, in addition, they are amateurs who are more concerned about values, well-being and ecology and take into account that brands reflect their principles. This data, she has concluded, has served for predictions that by 2030 women’s football will be mainstream and will have outperformed disciplines such as rugby, tennis or the second men’s division.

“The asset of the women’s teams is that they still retain the purity of football”

In a conversation between Markel Zubizarreta, head of the women’s section of FC Barcelona, and Stefano Braghin, director of the female Juventus, the importance of building women’s football projects fleeing short-term plays has been demonstrated. Zubizarreta has explained that the Barça philosophy required working with the quarry. “We’ve been buyers only of what didn’t make up the lower categories,” he said. Then, to attract the best players in the market, the city and the Barça philosophy have served as attractions that have made them decide on this club. However, the secret to the success of the current workforce lies in the fact that most players have grown in Barça.

A stable team with a long-term commitment of the players has also served to create loyalty for the fans. That’s why Zubizarreta believes that the great asset of women’s football is its purity. The football players are not so attentive to the representatives and agents when making their decisions: they are much more autonomous, and that allows the relationship with them to be “between people, not between companies”.

For his part, Braghin has confessed that in Juventus they had to start practically from scratch four years ago, but it took FC Barcelona as a model. The Italian competition still does not attract the best players in the world, but it is confident that it will be able to assemble a good team of Italians with foreigners in positions that cannot be covered by nationals.

Braghin has also emphasized that women’s football is more authentic than men’s. Being part of the group is more important for the players, so it is easier to solve any problem that a club may pose on a daily basis. They are more committed to what they do and their degree of sacrifice is greater. The proof of this difference is that he has observed that numerous professionals who have worked in both male teams and female teams. When they work with the female team, do not want to return to the male ones.

“There are no cognitive or tactical differences between women’s and men’s football”

María Tato, director of the Women’s Football of the RFEF, has advocated a great future for women’s football due to the sustained growth it maintains over time. It is something that is already indicated by the main consultants, who cite the year 2026 as the date when an appreciable difference can be made. The great advantage that a woman has, she explained, is that she can follow the path of male football success, but at the same time learn from her mistakes. Something “as simple or complicated as this”. The great advantage is that the product is potentially of the same quality. According to a data analysis investigation, there are no cognitive or tactical differences between the game of men and women football players.

She has also announced that there are already signs of the growing interests of football players. An important example is that, though many commercial strategies and investments were crossed, both in girls and boys, now there are brands that only want to exclusively sponsor women. Of course, we must first take the political, business and social measures that serve so that the number of coaches and directors starts to grow. The references are fundamental.

“Football for women needs all the support it can get: ‘liking’ a news story is enough”

In a dialogue between Maram Albutairi, president of Eastern Flames FC, the first women’s football club in Saudi Arabia, and Swedish journalist Mia Eriksson, the need for leaders who push and motivate the new generations to break glass roofs and take the step to dedicate themselves to football.

Albutairi was a football player in Bahrain, but will always regret having started late. She did it when she was 26 years old and was a mother. However, now her daughter, who is 6 years old, wants to dedicate herself to this sport because she has her as a model. “We need references to break down stereotypes.” Now, thanks to tools such as Instagram there are more and more women like her, who can show that you can be an “athlete, wife, mother and professional”. That’s why she has asked for the support of women’s football in all possible ways: “it’s sometimes enough to like a news story or post a comment on social media.”

In Sweden, Eriksson recalls, there are no situations like those mentioned by Albutairi: football is very accessible for women, but even so there are still situations of inequality. For example, in sports broadcasts. After seeing how the French World Cup was covered, she considered that the work left a lot to be desired. She is now touring Europe, taking pictures of women football players, especially the Swedish national team, and has a football analysis podcast.

“Above all, there is a need for trainers, physios, doctors…”

The president of the Mexican club, Chivas, has described how the women’s section of the club started, which won the first professional tournament in her country. Nelly Simon, the first Mexican sports director of a club, took over the reins of the team and for that she left her career as a journalist. Their first measures have been aimed at women having the same tools and equipment to play as men. In addition, it has established a series of agreements and scholarships with universities so that players can supplement their training or have options when they leave the game. Something as important as bringing the game closer to them, because, as she has insisted, what is most needed are women in positions outside the field, such as coaches, physical therapists and doctors.

“We are opening up a gap not only in sports, but also in society”

The Barça players Marta Torrejón and Mariona Caldentey have discussed their careers from when they were very young to reach the club with which they have achieved historical successes. In Marta’s case, she could see as a child how her parents, uncles and siblings played, which introduced her to the game and led her to debut with seven years on the school team from which she leapt to the Espanyol team, where she competed with the boys. She thinks that for the evolution of her career it was very important to be competing at the highest level in the male category for three years. However, afterwards, when she joined the women’s team, it was difficult for her to share a wardrobe at age 14 with women who could be 28 or 32 years old.

Mariona, for her part, began to play with four years on the team in her town, in Mallorca. She was the only girl on the whole island who played in competitions that were entirely masculine. When she was 14 years old, she went on to join a female team and the same thing happened to her colleague: “I had no idea about life and I was with people aged 30 and it was difficult because they have completely different mentalities.” Later, she observed that there were small discriminations. The girls, if they didn’t have a car, went by train to practice. A taxi was provided for the boys who were in the same situation. She could at least go from enjoying her hobby to turning it into her lifestyle, but she always noticed that there were more facilities in the masculine sections.

Despite everything, after the successes harvested by the FC Barcelona female team, Marta believes that by becoming a benchmark and pioneers of these titles, they not only open a gap in sports, but also in society. “We have to know where we come from and where we are now, it has been hard to get here.”

“Public-private collaboration in the sports sector reverts to society”

In a debate, David Escudé, sports director of Barcelona City Council, Xavier Dumont, head of Barcelona Activa, Patricia Viñals, CEO of Faind, Anna Prunna, president of Indescat and Clara Plana, nutritionist at CEM Joan Miró, presented the Barcelona Sports Hub project. It’s a collaboration network that seeks the complicity and synergies of private companies and institutions to promote the sports sector in Barcelona.

The objective is to provide solutions to large sports companies and convince them that, for example, football and fitness are part of the same business range: sports. With the collaboration of everyone, it is possible to generate opportunities for start-ups and SMEs as well as for established large companies, who can see how the collaboration model attracts large professionals to Barcelona and serves to train the businesses with a vocation. This initiative, which has an athletic nature, has the main benefit that it reverses in society and the environment.

Real-time monitoring of athlete hydration

Finally, the Allianz competition on sports innovation has been held. The finalists were Evix, a medullary protection for cyclists; a sweat and lactate monitoring system by Onalabs; an app to obtain nutritional information of food photos that can be taken with the mobile, the model of monitored and gamified workouts by Rockfit; a system to perform sports transactions and drafts by Omashu; and, finally, the winner: a Kamleon smart urinal that captures hydration in real time with a centralized analysis.

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