(UEFA.org) With rapidly growing participation, the launch of an exciting new campaign and UEFA Women's EURO in the Netherlands, 2017 is shaping up to be a landmark year for the women's game.
Sam Tarn from UEFA's Communication department met with Emma Sykes from UEFA's Women's Football Development department and Adrian Wells, senior marketing manager, to discuss the growth of the game, and the new roles that have been created to help take it to the next level.
Emma, as we saw with the publication of UEFA's Women's Football in National Associations report this week, the game is growing rapidly in Europe. Could you explain what that growth looks like?
Emma Sykes: Women's football has gone from strength to strength over the past five years. Currently we have over 1.2 million girls and women registered as regularly playing football across Europe. We also know that there are many more playing more informally, so that statistic is the tip of the iceberg. But it isn't just the playing numbers that are growing – it's also the number of female coaches, referees and women working at higher levels in football administration. The number of professional female players has doubled to 2,853 in just four seasons. We see this as a sign of steady progress, which is great, but UEFA wants to give women's football an even bigger boost.
What has UEFA done to spur that development?
Emma Sykes: UEFA has definitely laid the groundwork, primarily through releasing dedicated funding for women's football development to all our 55 member associations. They use this to grow the base, as well as generally professionalising the sport, which has had a genuine impact on the numbers above. The development of UEFA's women's competitions, particularly the UEFA Women's Champions League, is also aiding the popularity of the sport, and UEFA Women's EURO in the Netherlands next year will certainly increase visibility, and encourage more and more girls to take part.
Adrian, you're heading up the release of a new women's football campaign for 2017, What can you tell us about the campaign, and what is it hoping to achieve?
Adrian Wells: UEFA has a clear aim: to make football the number one women's sport across Europe within five years. We are focusing on growing participation to achieve this, but to get more girls playing, we need to make women's football cool, have more engaging content outside of the matches, build the visibility across TV and digital channels, increase activation from partners, and support our national associations to deliver marketing and participation campaigns at the grassroots level. It is a big challenge, but we have a strong plan to deliver it, built around a campaign called 'Together #WePlayStrong'. It focuses on three key pillars that showcase the best of the game: skill, teamwork and positive attitude. The campaign will launch in the spring, and be supported by a range of celebrity ambassadors in sport and in popular global youth culture.
You're growing your team to help deliver this campaign. What can you tell us about these newly-created roles?
Adrian Wells: We are seeking a marketing manager and a marketing coordinator to lead the delivery of the agreed strategy. These are really exciting roles that have a real mix of developing the image/advertising campaign from the ad agency upwards, and then leading the development of a content and platform plan to bring it to life. Finally, the roles will also link into our 55 national associations, supporting them with the development of a localised version. The successful candidates will also work closely with a women's football content lead, another new role which sits within UEFA's editorial team.
What kind of qualities are you looking for in candidates?
Adrian Wells: The campaign is targeted at girls, so candidates that have a strong knowledge of girls' sport is crucial for relating to our audience. A strong marketing background will be key, as we require a blend of creative flair, digital knowledge, and a grounded sense of what can be delivered. There is a lot to achieve, so being organised and efficient will be crucial!
To find out more about women's football, click here.
View the latest roles in women's football at UEFA here