The Samoan making sure women’s football isn’t left behind

A Samoan woman at the helm of women's football development, Sarai Bareman, is doing her best to ensure women’s football doesn’t lose any momentum as the sport comes out of the COVID-19 crisis.

FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer discussed the game and the challenges it is facing during an interview for Women In Sport Aotearoa’s Leadership in Lockdown series.

Bareman said as hard as the global COVID-19 pandemic period has been so far, all the difficult decisions for her and FIFA still lie ahead.

“A lot of the decisions to date have been quite easy to make, because the basis has been around protecting everyone’s health and safety and wellbeing,” she said.

“The hardest decisions are yet to come, and they will be around coming out of this situation and the return to normality.”

And the former Samoan international player’s priority is making sure the women’s game doesn’t get left behind.

“Women’s football has always been seen as a cost exercise, as opposed to a revenue-generating exercise,” she said. 

“And in all honesty there’s still a vast majority of our member associations, and even women’s leagues, which are heavily reliant on being subsidised by revenues from the men’s game.”

That economic situation means footballing organisations are putting all their energy and focus into reviving the revenue streams associated with the men’s game to tackle and emerge from the crisis.

This has already seen, and will continue to see women’s events being bumped from schedules and calendars, so Bareman’s job is to change the mindset where women’s football is seen as a cost.

“I think that, particularly off the back of the Women’s World Cup last year, women’s football has risen to a level of prominence where even those leaders in football that are maybe not so into it are forced to stand up and take notice, and obliged to invest,” she said.

“Getting those leaders to understand that investing up front for a longer-term gain is vital in order to reap the opportunities that exist in commercialising women’s football.”

Bareman fully believes that the women’s game contains bigger opportunities than the means for building commercial value as well:

“If you look at men’s football now, it’s just completely saturated in terms of rights, commercialisation, player salaries, everything.

“In contrast if you look at the women’s game and you see the gap there between the men’s and women’s game from a commercial perspective, it’s clear to me where the opportunities lie, and that requires investment and the right mindset.

“Women’s football is so deserved of such a level of prioritisation and activity and investment, and I feel we’re only at the beginning of where we can be in terms of the growth of our sport.”

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