Courtesy of OFC Clubs & Leagues Manager Steven Dillon
With International Women’s Day upon us here in New Zealand (March 8), there is a fantastic opportunity to help promote the game to girls and women both from with your club as well as to your wider community.
It should be recognised that this focus should not only be limited to this particular day but should be a regular and consistent part of club planning and operations all year around.
A sustained focus has been placed on supporting the growth of girls and women’s football and clubs should ensure that they are providing an aspirational environment for their players, a supportive environment for their coaches and an and attractive and exciting club environment for their supporters.
With clubs on the lookout for strategies or initiatives to ensure women’s football is supported to the appropriate level for both now and the future, I have created “10 ways to support girls and women football in amateur clubs”.
Increase and seek out funding
Investing in women’s football can help to improve the infrastructure, player development, and overall quality of the game. It is important to actively seek out funding opportunities, such as grants, sponsorships, and donations that are targeted at women and girls. These can be found bye researching organisations such as Sport New Zealand, Regional Sports Trusts or other Trust Funding sources who may have this as a priority.
In sports where player payments or reimbursements are relevant, ensuring that female players are paid the same as their male counterparts can help to attract and retain talent in the sport. There are clear guidelines given for Amateur Player Agreements and reasonable levels of reimbursements that given the amateur status of the sport, should be provided to players in both the mens and women’s teams.
Amateur clubs can help to promote equality by treating female players the same as male players. This might include providing equal access to resources, such as equipment and training facilities, as well as ensuring that female players receive the same level of respect and support as their male counterparts. There is a growing need to develop infrastructure, such as changing rooms and toilet facilities that are equally as available to women as they are any other users from without the club.
Improve club-wide media coverage
Giving women’s football the same level of media coverage as men’s football can help to raise its profile and attract more fans. You can do this through online stories on the club website, player feature pieces on social media and any other campaigns that the club is able to undertake throughout and around the season. Metrics show there are significant increases in website traffic, social media engagement and other positive news stories when girls and women’s sport is profiled on your club website or other media pages.
Promoting the sport
Encouraging more girls and women to play football can help to increase participation and create a larger talent pool. This might include hosting events in local schools, participating in local tournaments, and engaging with fans on social media. By encouraging community involvement, you may be able to increase your club membership and helping to sign up girls and women of all ages and ability.
Support from sponsors
Securing specific sponsors for women’s football teams and leagues can provide additional funding and resources to help grow the sport. This may also allow you to connect with different sponsorship markets or partner organisations separate from men’s football. You may also find certain organisations may only give out sponsorship or donations if they know it is being used to support girls and women’s sport and you should plan out how these can be.
Prioritise player development activities
Amateur clubs can help to support women’s football by focusing on player development. This might include providing coaching and training, as well as offering opportunities for players to participate in tournaments and matches. These are normally activated through girls and women’s only festivals, gender-specific coach education courses or promotional periods such as Girls & Women’s month etc.
Foster a positive club culture
Amateur football clubs can help to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for female players by fostering a positive club culture. This might include setting clear expectations around behaviour and communication, as well as promoting team-building activities that may take place throughout the season, or even the atmosphere and environment created at club functions.
Partner with other organisations
Amateur clubs can help to support women’s football by partnering with other organisations, such as local schools, businesses, and sports clubs. This can help to create opportunities for players and increase visibility for the sport. You can target women’s associated brands or organisations that support women’s and girls’ activities or other gender–specific campaigns that align with your commitment to fostering a positive culture.
Amateur clubs can help to promote women’s football by celebrating the successes of their female players and teams. This might include recognising outstanding performances, sharing player stories on social media, and providing opportunities for players to showcase their skills to a wider audience. All of which will have a positive impact on the club image and credibility, as well as appealing to more members of your football community.
Overall, supporting women’s football at an amateur level requires long-term commitment from all stakeholders and should include player development, community involvement, and resource equality. This comes from having board representation of women’s sport on your club committee but should not be limited to just one person.
All board and committee members are responsible for the development for all their club members.
Drivers and supporters of this message will need to recognise that there may be strong historical behaviours that may slow this commitment down however by creating a positive club culture and seeking out partnerships, amateur clubs can help to build a stronger and more inclusive future for the sport.
Actions matter. What will you do today to help support the ongoing growth of women’s football (or sport) within your organisation?