Ashleigh Cox recently joined the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) as a part-time Women’s Football Consultant. We caught up with her to learn more about who she is and her background in football.   

OFC: Tell us a little bit about yourself?
AC: I was born and raised in Auckland. I grew up following my older sister in netball and later my twin sister to football. I then went on to play for over 20 years as a goalkeeper.  

As a family we value the power of sport and the benefits gained both on and off the field from being part of a team. We hope my son can participate in team sport one day too, despite his challenges of having cerebral palsy.  

Adaptive sport and sport for all is certainly a passion of mine and I am looking forward to seeing how football develops over the next few years to ensure all people have the opportunity to participate. 

How did the new role at OFC come about?
I started at New Zealand Football (NZF) as the Marketing and Events Manager before I was NZF Women’s Development Manager.  

Following the close of my maternity cover contact and having a young child of my own (with one on the way), the opportunity and flexibility to work at OFC allows me to manage my family while I can still make an impact on the women’s game.  

Given your previous work with NZF, what’s your view on where football is at for women in that country?
Women’s football in New Zealand is still considered amateur and due to the numerous opportunities for girls and women to participate in several sports, we are often faced with various challenges when trying to attract more girls and women to our game. 

However, with growing opportunities, from playing, coaching and refereeing through to administration, which better engage girls and women, we are starting to see an increased interest in our game across the country.  

From 2018-2020 youth female futsal participation increased by 42 percent. This shows that different game formats and opportunities are key when looking to further develop the game here in New Zealand for girls and women, and to ensuring their needs are met to sustain longevity in our game. 

What difference are you aiming to make through your role with OFC?
I want to see safer, more inclusive and welcoming environments where girls and women can participate at all levels, both on and off the field, and for them to feel empowered through being part of our game. 

I took on this role because I believe there is a real opportunity to inspire, educate and strengthen the capacity and capability of both girls and women through the power of sport.  

I believe all girls and women should have the opportunity to participate in sport. While the physical benefits are important to acknowledge, the mental and emotional benefits far outweigh these.  

With over 200 million people playing football in over 250 countries, we are the global game with the power to connect.  

The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ is our opportunity to ensure our game connects with all women in our region and that opportunities are plentiful. To be successful with this we need to ensure our game is accessible for all and there are no barriers to participation.