Women in Football

Women in Football

Yvonne Harrison, CEO – Women in Football

Heidi Pellerano, Chief Commercial Officer – Concacaf

Monika Staab, Women’s National Team (Former) Coach and Technical Director – Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF)

Senior figures from women’s football emphasised that major football events alone cannot be relied upon to drive investment into the game at the ‘Women in Football’ session at ISC 2023.

Despite the successes achieved in creating opportunities for young girls in the UK following the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, Yvonne Harrison, CEO of Women in Football, said enthusiasm cannot unpick decades of under-investment into women’s football.

Women in Football is a membership network of professionals that champions female talent in a bid to bring about a change in attitudes to women working in the industry.

“You can host all the major events you want but if you don’t have strategy, [positive] things are not going to happen in a structured and meaningful way,” Harrison said. “The Lionesses stand for equality and promoting the women’s game, and they see it as their role to help create opportunities for young girls who want to play. The first thing the Lionesses did when they won the Euros was equal opportunities in every school for every girl. You kind of sit back and think…’What? We don’t actually have that?’”

Harrison was talking alongside Heidi Pellerano (Chief Commercial Officer – Concacaf) and Saudi Arabia’s Women’s National Team Technical Director Monika Staab.

Pellerano reflected on the challenges she has faced being a high-profile female in football: “There aren’t a lot of women working in football at our level. It takes a lot of boldness for an organisation. We’ve all been in situations where ‘mansplaining’ takes place. I’ve been mansplained a lot. Nothing gets me going more than that.

“I’ve done this job for a long time and I feel very confident in my role. You deal with these things. When I moved into football from the agency world it felt like I moved back in time 40 years…but at the same time it made me realise I had made the right move.”

Monika Staab, who is also a former coach of the Saudi Women’s National Team, added that women’s football in the country is thriving thanks to buy-in across the country – buy-in that tends to be misunderstood globally.

“All the girls want to play and now they are allowed to play,” she said. “The federation established a Women’s Football Department in 2019. The General Secretary is very supportive. It is point number three in the [Saudia Arabian Football Federation’s] strategy to have women’s football developed and supported.”