Zurich event for Women in Football Leadership Programme

The FIFA-UEFA-IMD Business School joint initiative is empowering women in leadership positions in football.

Delegates at the Women in Football Leadership Programme event in Zurich
Delegates at the Women in Football Leadership Programme event in Zurich ©FIFA

Leaders from the frontlines of football development gathered in Zurich this week for the latest edition of the Women in Football Leadership Programme (WFLP), a joint initiative between FIFA, UEFA and IMD Business School.

The week-long event brought together 24 key representatives from national football associations across the globe to share their perspectives on how to make the sport as inclusive and diverse as possible.

WFLP was established in 2014 to empower the growing number of female managers working in leadership positions in football around the world, as the traditionally male-dominated sport adapts to the surge in popularity of women's football.

"The programme is a unique platform for female executives in football to grow and assume more decision-making roles within their organisations," said Sarai Bareman, FIFA's chief women's football officer.

"Women play vital roles in making organisations successful," she added. "They create a balance that allows us to share a maximum of ideas and skills to constantly improve together and strive forward."

Michele Uva speaking in Zurich
Michele Uva speaking in Zurich©FIFA

Sustainable future
"We must strive to bring together the best professionals to ensure a successful, sustainable future for football," said Michele Uva, UEFA vice president and deputy chairman of the UEFA Women's Football Committee.

"The most effective leaders are men and women driven by a sense of responsibility, the capability to doubt and question," added Uva. "The Women in Football Leadership Programme contributes to this process and we are delighted it continues to nurture and inspire senior female leaders within the game."

Gender equality
Mr Uva also underlined the importance of ensuring gender equality in the management of both women's and men's football. "It is important to look at the bigger picture," he said. "Women's football must not become a 'women-only island', just like it is unacceptable to only have men working in men's football."

Female leaders at the WFLP in Zurich
Female leaders at the WFLP in Zurich©FIFA

As well as discussions, the WFLP training week included practical role-plays and one-on-one coaching. Participants were challenged, personally and professionally, to share their knowledge and experience about what it takes to be a good leader and the power of team dynamics. They also looked more closely at specific obstacles standing in the way of women taking on leadership roles in the traditionally male-dominated football business.

"The Women in Football Leadership Programme creates a unique training environment, conducive to the personal growth of talented women from around the world," explained Professor Ginka Toegel of IMD.

"It creates a context, in which they are challenged and supported to explore their own leadership identity, learn how to advocate their mission and address gender-specific career derailers. It builds social capital by networking with other women who share similar challenges. It's an amazing group of highly talented women, who are passionate about the beautiful game and have innovative ideas about its future."

"This course has allowed me to feel much more empowered as a person and I strongly believe this can really change the course of my life," said Ana Sofia Moura, commercial director of the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF). "It is a very complete programme, very well prepared and absolutely unique."

Natalia Chiriac, sports law counsel at the Football Association of Moldova (FMF), felt the programme's international aspect was an important factor in its success. "With representatives from around the world, we could share experiences and discuss issues with women from different backgrounds and find there are so many subjects that united us," she said.

"The IMD coaches have been excellent in exercising the core significance of what leadership really is, encouraging us to express ourselves, collaborate and overcome our limits to develop our skills."