27 September 2021
Women in Football members enjoyed an inside view on the #GetOnside campaign as a group of pledgers shared their perspectives at the latest of WIF's online webinars.
Fittingly, the event was hosted by Sky Sports reporter and WIF member Faye Carruthers – who was awarded a scholarship to study for Liverpool University's Football Industries MBA as a result of #WhatIf, the predecessor campaign to #GetOnside.
Faye introduced a panel comprising:
As the representative of Women in Football's lead partner Barclays – which is supporting #GetOnside – Tom was invited to begin. He began by reflecting on Barclays' 20 years of involvement in football. At the beginning of that journey, he said, "we started to think about how we could do more to make football more equitable for all, and to support women, and along came a relationship with Women in Football.”
He continued: “That’s important for us because we’ve spent so much time and money and effort supporting the men’s game that we want to make an equal contribution to the women’s game, and we feel like we’re in a good place to do that now.”
Tom went on to detail the pledge made by Barclays to #GetOnside – a series of career development days in partnership with Women in Football to launch in 2022.
“Seeing all the pledges come in is absolutely fantastic,” he added. “And these pledges aren’t one-off things that suddenly disappear - it’s around the future sustainability of the industry, which is so important and will make a real, lasting difference in the long term.”
Like Faye, Ali Speechly benefitted from the original #WhatIf campaign, and she spoke of the boost given to her professional development by the opportunity to shadow Emma Hayes and meet other coaches. “It came at a really pivotal moment in my coaching career,” she recalled. “Emma helped me to feel more confident in my existing approach – I could just be my authentic self.”
During a Q&A session with Emma, Ali said she reflected that “every club needs an Emma Hayes”, whereupon Emma responded: “It’s you. Everyone in this room can be that person.”
#GetOnside offers a great deal to women coaches in particular, Ali said. “It's really important as a coach to find the right environment for you, which supports you. To do that you need exposure to different environments and #GetOnside offers that.”
Sports Interactive and SEGA Europe had announced in July that women’s football would appear in future versions of the Football Manager game – so for #GetOnside the production team pledged to include in-game advertising for Women in Football.
Tina Keech said: “It's all about getting the message out there. People who play Football Manager may not have seen women's football or heard about Women in Football, so I think this is highlighting women's football in a new setting.”
#GetOnside pledges are good business as well as good for football - and Tina pointed out that FM’s involvement in the campaign would be win-win.
“I used to play the game when I was younger and I never met another female who played it, and I couldn't believe it, to be honest. So this is also bringing women to the game and to get closer to women's football around the world, not just England, and making the game visible.”
One of the campaign’s most eye-catching pledges comes from the FA, which will support 1,000 clubs across England to improve playing opportunities for girls.
The pledge is designed to ensure a continuous playing and coaching pathway for girls through to the age of 16, rather than have to move between clubs and interrupt their development.
Kelly Simmons set the pledge in context by pointing out the contrasts between the chances given to past and future generations. “It's making sure that everything's in place for that journey,” she said, “for them to love football and enjoy it, and have the opportunities that my generation didn't have.
“For this generation it's changing and for future generations we want to make sure that girls have exactly the same opportunities as boys.”
As one of the chief architects of #GetOnside and #WhatIf before it, Jane Purdon spoke passionately of the palpable benefits to women and girls from the actions taken.
“What I love about the campaign is that it really is about action,” she said. “To use the old phrase from the Suffragettes, it's about deeds not words. We can look at this panel and there are beneficiaries of previous #WhatIf pledges whose careers have kicked on, whose lives have been transformed, because of what this campaign does. That always gives me such joy and such a buzz. It's absolutely what we set out to do.
Jane emphasised the breadth of #GetOnside and the fact that pledges can come from anywhere: “One of the wonderful things about this campaign is that everyone can do something. That's one of the things I've loved about it – it's really inclusive, it's not just the big boys and girls across the football industry.
“If you or your organisation would like to do something, please come and talk to us. We can help you craft an idea, an action, that works for you and works for your organisation and will make a genuine difference to somebody.”
The tangible benefits of the campaign were singled out by Javan Odegah as a decisive factor in Leaders in Sport’s involvement. “We are part of the pledge because it defines action,” he said.
Javan’s role is to develop partnerships and diversity with Leaders in Sport - a content and conference platform which connects the world of sport business and performance internationally. “When it comes to the why,” he explained, “why we do the work we do, definitely it gives me that smile on my face day to day, to see that impact we can have across the industry.”
The pledge made by Leaders will see the organisation use its position and connections to support gender equality across the football industry, on and off the pitch.
Javan described the pledge as “an alliance to solidify that working relationship” between Leaders and Women in Football. In one particularly memorable take, he characterised that relationship as “organisation-to-organisation allyship” – a powerful phrase which goes a long way to capturing the essence of #GetOnside right across the board.
Share this article