Everton FC's #WhatIf pledge proved key to help raise the profile of Everton Women's team

22 January 2021

Everton FC's #WhatIf pledge proved key to help raise the profile of Everton Women's team

Women in Football's ground-breaking #WhatIf campaign launched in May 2018 aiming to change the football landscape by helping create new opportunities for girls and women.

In the latest of a special mini-series we take a look at another key pledges since that official launch at Twitter's London HQ and find out what has happened since. All images courtesy of Everton Women.

#WhatIf Everton became the first Premier League club to use their
women's team to launch a kit?

If you can see it, you can be it and for any aspiring young footballer being able to see women players treated with the same respect and value as their male counterparts is invaluable.

So, when Everton - in conjunction with the Club’s then technical partner Umbro - added their support to #WhatIf by having Everton Women launch the 2018/19 away kit, it was a major breakthrough with a Premier League club putting their women's team in the spotlight.

“Having Everton Women fronting our 2018/19 away kit launch was an important statement of our intent as well as further developing and raising the profile of the women’s game," said Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale, CEO of Everton Football Club and Chair of Everton Women’s Strategic Leadership Team.

“We have been proud to build on our success and have implemented our ‘One Club’ ethos by bringing our men’s and women’s teams even closer together."

Since the pledge, the Club has continued to raise the profile of the women’s game as Everton delivers on its 'One Club' philosophy by investing in their women’s team and structure. The success of Everton’s strategy has already been demonstrated on the pitch as the Club challenges for major honours.

Indeed, since the kit launch, which featured first-team players such as Megan Finnigan and Danielle Turner, Everton Women have moved to a permanent new 2,200 capacity stadium at Walton Hall Park, which is less than a mile from Goodison Park.

New stadium

As the first WSL side to develop a purpose-built stadium, Everton is making the women’s game even more accessible and to new audiences with their new home being the only place to watch top-flight women’s football in the heart of Liverpool. For those supporters who watched the team at their previous "home grounds" outside the city, the opening of their own stadium was a momentous occasion and another step in the right direction.

"When the girls came out for the first time at their own home, I was just like, 'We've done it. We've arrived. The girls have a place to call home' and it was my dream come true." Julie Makin, chair of the Official Everton Women Supporters Club.

The opening match in February was a sell-out against Manchester United but regrettably it proved to be the final fixture of the 2019/20 season - and the last in front of a crowd – due to the global pandemic.

In November 2020 Everton Women made it to the Vitality Women’s FA Cup final – their first in ten years. Despite a spirited performance, and one of the closest women’s cup finals in recent years they missed out in extra-time - but the game made a big impact in further raising the team’s profile on an international stage and has provided a platform on which the Club is ready to build on.

Off the field, progress has continued at a pace and on International Women's Day 2019 the Club announced an injection of increased resources for squad development supported by a new strategic leadership team.

Strategic vision

Everton CEO Barrett-Baxendale was appointed chair of the Leadership Team, which focuses on delivering success for Everton Women, and putting in place a structure and strategic vision that mirrors Carlo Ancelotti’s high-flying men’s side who are challenging for a top four spot in the Premier League.

Sasha Ryazantsev took on the role of Managing Director, thus ensuring the women's team now has senior representation from two Directors in the Everton boardroom. The benefits of both appointments has enabled new Sporting and Commercial Director Sarvar Ismailov, manager Willie Kirk and General Manager Aaron Little to fully utilise the Club's resources and back-office systems.

This includes sharing the same USM Finch Farm site as the men’s first team and Academy, access to the same world-class training facilities and a dedicated team of backroom staff.

Everton Women has always maintained a strong connection to the Club’s community programmes through Everton in the Community. Members of Everton Women’s squad have regularly made player appearances alongside their male counterparts and more recently have been supporting Everton’s Blue Family campaign by calling supporters impacted by the pandemic.

Early in 2020 the whole squad took part in the Everton Sleepout as players joined supporters in spending the night at Goodison Park to raise vital funds for the charity’s programme ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ – supporting young adults at risk of homelessness.

The impact of Everton Women's involvement with the 2018/19 away kit launch has been an important platform on which the Club has built with increased media exposure and digital coverage, enhanced marketing and promotion which has turn attracted new commercial partners.

Global appeal

The team’s profile has risen significantly, and in October 2020 Everton Women signed a new multi-year principal partnership deal with MegaFon - the biggest commercial deal in their history. Part of this deal also saw Russian-based mobile network operator Yota - also part of the Megafon group – become Everton Women’s first sleeve sponsor. The partnership debuted at the Women’s FA Cup Final which was broadcast live on terrestrial TV in the UK as well as a global audience.

“In the past 12 months, despite the impact of a global pandemic we have made significant progress by moving into to a purpose-built stadium, brought in exciting new signings to further improve our squad, reached a cup final, secured a bright young manager to a long-term contract, raised the profile of our team and attracted new commercial partners," adds Barrett-Baxendale.

“Our significant investment in time resource and effort is contributing to women’s football becoming part of the country’s mainstream sports coverage. It is a very exciting time to be part of the women’s game especially for Everton Women and we are looking forward to a successful next chapter.”

With their significant progress both on and off the field coupled with an Official Everton Women Supporters’ Club that now boasts members from Malaysia, USA and Holland, Everton Women can now officially say that their reach has become truly global.

* Images courtesy of Everton Women

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