Better sports diplomacy can help women's football grow
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women's football
There seems to be a delicate balance to be struck between aims of economic growth, and the use of sports diplomacy to further gender equality, which is very important to the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The cancellation of a sponsorship deal between Visit Saudi, the tourism arm of the Saudi Arabian government, and the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, for example, shows that the world body have some way to go in finding this balance.

In the article 'Women's World Cup: How better sports diplomacy can help women's football grow' published in The Conversation, co-authors Loughborough University's‌ Dr Verity Postlethwaite, Claire Jenkin (Senior Lecturer at University of Hertfordshire) and Lindsay Sarah Krasnoff (Research Associate at University of London) wrote that research showed sport diplomacy is particularly important when hosting an international women’s sporting event.

"This is because international sports organisations have traditionally been seen as an 'old boys’ club' with powerful sporting administrations drawn from elite and affluent male networks. And so careful sports diplomacy is needed to navigate this environment in order to try to equalise the position of women’s events," they wrote.

The also highlighted the deal with Visit Saudi, which was first reported earlier this year, and quickly drew criticism around the discrepancy between Saudi Arabia’s record on women’s rights and Fifa’s stated aim to promote gender equality.

"Saudi Arabia has been heavily criticised by the international charity Human Rights Watch for the country’s record regarding rights of women and LGBTQ+ people. These reported actions contrast significantly with the gender progressive and inclusive underpinnings of the tournament crafted by Fifa.

"Other countries with contested human rights records have previously invested in sport sponsorship deals, such as Visit Rwanda. However, Saudi Arabia and its investment strategies in sport have been heavily scrutinised, most recently around men’s professional golf.

"By March, New Zealand and Australia’s football federation officials, national government officials and high-profile players had voiced concern and threatened protests if Fifa was to formalise the sponsorship deal – a form of sports diplomacy in its own right."

The authors concluded saying, effective sports diplomacy amid a delicate balance of economic growth, claims of equality and global affairs need to be a focus for FIFA if it is to smoothly navigate this historic journey for women’s football – and for equality.

Source: The Conversation



Operating Team


All countries
All regions
Football (Soccer)
Sustainable Development Goals
10 – Reduced inequalities
Target Group
Girls and women

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