#WhatIf Women in Football went European? Well we just have!

3 March 2020

#WhatIf Women in Football went European? Well we just have!

It's good to talk - delegates at Women in Football's first ever European event exchange ideas

Women in Football launched our new #WhatIf campaign at FIFPro's HQ in the Netherlands on Tuesday – and the message that emerged from one inspiring day was loud and clear: "Get on board and join our movement."

Representatives from more than 30 organisations across Europe attended an inspiring day full of debate, discussion and a passionate call to arms for leaders in the game to look at ways in which they can help support and empower girls and women.

Ebru Koksal, Women in Football's chair, opened the day with a rousing speech that set the tone for the rest of the day. Ebru welcomed the news that Saudi Arabia is launching its first-ever women’s football league, but shared our disappointment that the picture from IFAB showed, "twenty-eight white men and one woman... such an undiverse and unrepresentative group deciding the laws of the men’s and women’s game".

Ebru continued: "We are all here because we don't accept the world as fixed and unchangeable, and we have the courage to challenge the status quo and ask the hard questions for inclusive diversity."

Following hot on Ebru's heels was Amanda Vandervort, FIFpro's Chief Women's Football Officer and then Women in Football CEO Jane Purdon, who introduced Tom Corbett, Managing Director, Head of Brand, Insights & Sponsorships at Barclays, and moved the discussion forward.

Barclays, who have strongly supported the work of Women in Football, made a pledge in 2018 to conduct a full-scale research project to understand the position of women in the football industry as part of our #WhatIf campaign.

With the survey now complete, Tom explained that the findings reiterated the challenges still faced by women in the industry. "Women working in the industry still often feel as if they are pioneers in football," he said, "And quite often when they talk about what they do, what their jobs are, they get an incredulous response which creates an atmosphere that women shouldn't be working in this industry."

Tom then highlighted the importance of education, opportunity and empowering girls and women, and that the structures are in place to ensure a truly diverse work force can be achieved.

Ayan Omar and Emma Clark have both experienced first-hand the power of #WhatIf, and the duo shared their stories about how the campaign has helped them, with a paid placement at Telegraph Sport and a full scholarship at University of Liverpool respectively.

The day then moved into a working phase. Portas Consulting, who were facilitating the day as fulfilment their own #WhatIf pledge, introduced six team leaders and the attendees then broke into working groups to brainstorm on topics including perception and visibility, commercial, women's football and leadership.

The sessions continued either side of the lunch break, before resuming for an afternoon of further topical conversation as the attendees came together to discuss the challenges faced by women, before looking at identifying key solutions.

"We have a duty as women to help bring other women along" and "If you get great talent, don't squander it, support it and be committed" were just two comments that resonated with the attendees in the room.

An open and honest discussion included contributions from representatives of European Leagues, ECA, BBC Sport, Copa90 and Fortuna Sittard, with some fantastic pledges coming from the floor – including two full scholarships for the Football MBA course 2020/21 at the University of Liverpool and Portas Consultancy pledging to continue working with Women in Football.

The afternoon concluded with an impassioned speech by Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, General Secretary of FIFPro, who talked about the need for collaborative working.

And this provided the perfect end to a hugely engaging and inspiring day, as FIFPro committed to continue offering its support to Women in Football and the issues we champion.

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© Women in Football 2020

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