A seminar in Nyon has heard how recent steps by UEFA have helped women's football in Europe, encouraging impetus and more exposure for a sport that is flourishing.
UEFA has emphasised its continued determination to nurture women's football at a seminar at the House of European Football in Nyon.
The seminar – 'Why promote and support women's sport and women's football in Europe?' – looked, among other things, at how greater media and public exposure for women's football can be generated and how more women can become involved in football's decision-making processes.
The gathering was organised by Sport and Citizenship, the European think tank dedicated to the study of sport's societal impact. Sport and Citizenship aims at putting forward the core values of sport in society, in the realm of politics, economics and media issues.
Keynote speakers at the seminar included European Parliament member Emine Bozkurt, who is chairwoman of the informal 'Friends of football' group at the European parliament, and William Gaillard, senior adviser to the UEFA President.
UEFA has given women's football considerable added impetus in recent times, following far-sighted decisions by the UEFA Executive Committee. The much-respected Norwegian football administrator Karen Espelund is now a member of the UEFA Executive Committee, while the UEFA women's football development programme (WFDP) is gathering pace thanks to a decision taken by the UEFA Executive Committee in December 2010, when taking note of the huge growth in the game, in terms of both registered players and participation, it agreed to support the WFDP via the HatTrick assistance programme, starting from this year.
In the intervening period, UEFA and its 53 national associations – in co-operation with top clubs who have gathered experience in European and domestic women's competitions – have embarked on a path forward aimed both at developing women's football infrastructures across the continent, and attracting more women to become involved in the sport, as players, coaches, referees, officials or even just enthusiastic spectators.
Last autumn, UEFA announced German women's football legend Steffi Jones as ambassador for the WFDP. Jones is currently helping European football's governing body to further develop women's football on this continent, attending and speaking at events and putting over key visions and messages.
"We have taken a number of bold decisions in recent years, which have represented huge steps forward for UEFA," said Gaillard. "The door is open, some may say ajar but it is big progress. For example, we have also brought together the men's and women's Champions League finals. The UEFA Women's Champions League final is played in the same city two days before the men's UEFA Champions League final.
"This sends the message that football is also a women's game," he added. "UEFA is playing its part in bringing women's football on to the same level playing field as men's football."
"I think what UEFA is doing represents big steps for the football world," said Mrs Bozkurt, welcoming in particular UEFA's move to include women in its strategic decision-making bodies. "I think that UEFA is doing a great job in setting an example. The door is open, and it's up to the women and girls to go in through that door."