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News

Fri. 07 June 2019

FIFA Master and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup: From Classroom to the Pitch

Picture: Olympique Lionnais celebrating the victory of UEFA Women's Champions League, ©Laszlo Szirtesi/Getty Images

In March this year, a record crowd for a top-flight domestic women’s game in Europe of 60,739 watched FC Barcelona Femení beat Club Atlético de Madrid Femenino 2-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. This record attendance beat the previous European best of 48,121 who had attended the Athletic Bilbao Femenino v. Atletico de Madrid Femenino Cup match played earlier in January. Later in March, 39,027 fans watched current Serie A Women Champions Juventus beat Fiorentina Women’s FC 1-0 at the Allianz Stadium in Turin. It is clear that interest in the women’s game has never been greater.

This summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, therefore, promises to be one of the most eagerly anticipated tournaments ever held, as the world’s leading players compete for the most sought-after prize in world football. Star names such as Alex Morgan, Lieke Martens, Lucy Bronze, Eugénie Le Sommer, Wendie Renard, Sam Kerr, Mallory Pugh, Vivianne Miedema, Saki Kumagai, Marta, Lea Schüller, Nikita Parris and Asisat Oshoala, to name just a few, are all set to light up the tournament and display their skills on the global stage.

Although a total of twenty four teams have qualified for the 2019 tournament, only four nations have ever been named World Champions since the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in China in 1991. Those previous winners, who will again all be in contention this summer, include the USA (1991, 1999, 2015), Norway (1995), Germany (2003, 2007) and Japan (2011). However, in what could be an open tournament, host nation France, the England Lionesses, Canada and Euro 2017 winners the Netherlands, will provide strong competition for the No.1 ranked USA team, as they all look to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time. The 2019 competition will also see debuts for newcomers, Chile, Jamaica, Scotland and South Africa.

Captain of the first FIFA Women’s World Cup winning team in 1991 was the USA’s April Heinrichs. Later, from 2000 – 2004 she went on to hold the position of Head Coach, where she guided the USA Women’s team to a silver medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and then gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She was also the first female player inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Still closely involved with the game, this summer she will lead the FIFA Technical Study Group at the World Cup. In May, she spoke to FIFA.com about her expectations ahead of the tournament.

"The women’s game is growing so quickly and it’s just perfect having the FIFA Women’s World Cup taking place in France, as we can expect plenty of fans from Europe and elsewhere, and the time zone is good for a large audience. France have such a strong team and they also won last year’s FIFA World Cup, so this is going to be massive”, she said. Focussing on the technical aspects of play she added, “I think this is going to be the fastest Women’s World Cup ever if you consider how transitions from defence to attack, or from in possession to out of possession, will be executed from a technical and tactical point of view”.

Matches will be held in Paris, Nice, Montpellier, Rennes, Le Havre, Valenciennes, Reims and Grenoble, before the Final at the Stade de Lyon on Sunday 7th July.  With such a complex tournament to organise, and with record numbers of fans expected to travel to France for the duration of the competition, it is no surprise, therefore, to find numerous FIFA Master alumni busy working behind the scenes to help deliver this global mega-event to an international audience.

Gianluca Famigli graduated from the FIFA Master in 2014. He is now preparing for the World Cup in his role as Women’s Football Competitions Coordinator at FIFA. Discussing his work he said, “I am involved in the strategic and promotional activities of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019. For example, I coordinated the FIFA Women’s World Cup International Trophy Tour, which saw the coveted prize travel to each of the twenty four qualified nations and I am also closely involved in FIFA’s first-ever Global Women’s Football Convention. The Convention will take place before the competition kicks off and will bring leaders of sport and politics together to discuss key issues around the development and empowerment of women in football."

Gianluca is clearly looking forward to the tournament beginning, both from a work and supporter perspective. “This edition is expected to be the best ever with up to 1 billion fans tuning in to watch it, so being able to be a part of this professionally makes me feel great responsibility, excitement and pride. Also, as a proud Italian, I am beyond excited about the qualification of Le Azzurre. This is the first time they have qualified since 1999 and I can’t wait to see them in action on the pitch.”

And, down at pitch side, will be 17th edition graduate, Bhaveshan Moorghen, who will be working as a Football Technology & Innovation (FTI) Venue Manager during the tournament matches held in Le Havre. As Bhaveshan explains, “I’ll be in charge of implementing the different technologies used for the competition, such as VAR and Goal Line Technology, and leading a team of specialists from the various technology providers. I’m really looking forward to the tournament and I expect it to be further testament of the growth and rise in profile of women’s football and sport in general”.

Course alumni are also actively working within confederations to support the growth of women’s football. For example, last October The Confederation of African Football (CAF) created a dedicated women’s football development department. Heading and Managing it are FIFA Master alumni Safia Abdeldayem (14th edition) and Meskerem Tadesse Goshime (16th edition). “I am really looking forward to see what our African teams can do at the World Cup”, said Safia. “It is a great way to determine where we stand compared to the rest of the world. This can help us take note of other competing national teams according to their confederation and benefit from their development methods and ideas”.

Members of the current 19th edition FIFA Master class will also be closely following matches as they prepare for their Final Project presentations and graduation in Neuchâtel in July. One high profile example is Alyssa Lagonia. Alyssa, who already holds a degree in Business Administration, has an extensive professional women’s football playing career on her CV, representing leading teams such as Doncaster Rovers Belles in England, AGSM Verona in Italy, Apollon Ladies FC in Cyprus and the Canadian national team. Busy completing her studies at the moment, she is part of a research group, along with Erica Puppo, Arthur Loye and Marius Zanin, who are researching women’s football as part of their FIFA Master Final Project. Discussing their work, Alyssa said, “We are doing a multi-case study of national women’s football leagues with the aim of identifying key points for the development and professionalisation of women’s football. We want to know what the success and constraint factors are for its professionalisation. We then plan to look at the Italian context and point out which of these elements (success and constraint factors) are present in the structure of the Italian Serie A Femminile, and provide a set of recommendations to FIGC”.

Away from her academic research, Alyssa is very much looking forward to the World Cup itself.

Women’s football is currently riding a wave that is projecting the sport in a very positive and optimistic direction with more investments, interest and structure behind it. I hope the World Cup this summer helps to propel this movement forward and we use it to continue giving women’s football the attention it deserves. In countries like Spain and Italy with growing numbers of attendances, people are beginning to recognize women’s football as a viable and profitable sport. One can only hope that investments continue well after the World Cup, and are not just PR or marketing tools. France 2019 could be FIFA’s first World Cup, other than the men’s every four years, that makes a profit”, she explained.

Indeed, the 19th edition FIFA Master class have studied in detail women’s sport as part of their academic curriculum this academic year. This has included meeting guest speakers from women’s professional teams, national and international federation administrators, senior FIFA Women’s Football Department Directors and attending academic lectures on the ethics, history and marketing of both women’s football and women’s sport more widely. As Erica Puppo, who has previously worked at both the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018 and the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016 explains; “During the submodule on Women’s Sport in Leicester, and throughout the whole course in general, we have had the great opportunity to discuss the possible paths for the normalisation and commercialisation of women’s sports and on how to create the right platforms to guarantee the visibility and credibility they deserve. Personally, I found it fantastic to get an insight on the new strategies for the development of women’s football at both a global level, with guest speakers from FIFA, and at a league level with representatives from the Women's Super League in England as well as from different major football clubs. This enabled us to understand the various perspectives and interests of different stakeholders in the women's game, which have now grown into research ideas.  As a FIFA Master student it was incredibly valuable to be able exchange ideas on this topic with prominent figures from the sports industry”.

Salome Ilyambo, who is also a member of the 19th edition, is another former international women’s footballer, making over thirty appearances for the Namibia national women’s team and later volunteering as a referee and team manager. Before joining the Master, she worked as a Development Officer for the Namibia Sports Commission.

Commenting on the rise of women’s football she said, “Women’s football is changing lives, breaking barriers and attracting record numbers of fans to domestic matches, as recently seen in Spain and Italy. Further examples of breakthroughs for women’s football have seen Salma Al Majidi, for example, become the first woman to coach a male football team and dominate the league with different clubs in Sudan. In France, Stéphanie Frappart has recently become the first women to referee in Ligue 1. Although women’s football has been on the rise globally, it is still not at the pace we all want, though”.

Looking ahead to the World Cup she added, “I foresee entertaining football on display and a well attended 2019 Women's World Cup. Also, good luck to the debutantes, and particularly Jamaica and South Africa. With so many female players now playing professionally, there will be surprises”.

Noting the importance of raising further the profile of women’s football, Salome concluded, “The game is the best teacher, and more regular competitions for women are still needed to further help improve the women's game around the world.”

Previous Women’s World Cup winners Japan will also have strong support this summer from 17th edition FIFA Master alumni and Japanese international player, Ami Otaki. Ami, who graduated from Waseda University in Tokyo before studying on the FIFA Master, won the Women’s Champions League with Olympique Lyon in 2012. She is currently playing for JEF United Chiba Ladies in Division 1 of the Nadeshiko League.

Ami is also keen to see how the growth in professionalisation of women’s football will influence this summer’s tournament. She said, “I am looking forward to seeing how the European teams have evolved due to the professionalization of the game. Especially France, England and Spain. And of course, how a new and young Japan team will perform at this tournament”.

Good luck to all the teams competing at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer, to all FIFA Master alumni working hard to deliver the tournament and to our current students who are researching the global impact of women’s sport as part of their FIFA Master studies. They will all be helping to make 2019 an unforgettable summer for women’s sport.

 

FIFA Master - International Master in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport, ranked No.1 Course in Europe 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 by the SportBusiness International global rankings.

Organised by CIES in partnership with De Montfort University (United Kingdom), SDA Bocconi School of Management (Italy) and the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland).