Behind the scenes at the ECA Women’s Football Summit: shaping the future of women’s club football in Europe

Gina Sparks

Gina Sparks

30th Jun 2023

This week, we joined the European Club Association (ECA) at the inaugural ECA Women’s Football Summit.

A historic event that marks a milestone for women’s club football. Bringing together experts and stakeholders from across the football community to shape the future of the game.

The summit reviewed the achievements of ECA’s ‘Be A Changemaker’ strategy and featured sessions on the challenges faced by women’s football clubs and the importance of increased investment and governance.

As a long-time partner of ECA, WePlay helped launch their ‘Women’s Football Strategy’ in 2021 and have since supported their mission by creating content and executing a social media strategy in preparation for and during this historic event.

From representation, reforms and groundbreaking research to capturing and producing content on set, here’s a summary of the key highlights and discussions from the summit, along with an outline of our active involvement throughout.

Representation and reforms

One discussion that was particularly refreshing to hear about centred on reflections regarding the 29th ECA General Assembly held in March 2023. During this assembly, ECA Member Clubs unanimously approved significant governance and membership reforms in favour of women’s football.

These key changes include expanding ECA’s membership, establishing a pathway for women’s teams, and tripling the number of eligible members for ECA Board seats with a focus on independent directors and female representation.

By fostering equal representation and diversity, ECA will create a landscape where women have a seat at the table and influence the highest levels of the game making them a more representative and inclusive organisation, embracing the values of equality and diversity.

This is a significant victory for women’s football. It would mean women’s clubs in Europe will be able to exert a direct impact on the game’s development at the highest level – ensuring policies and priorities align better with the needs of women’s football and hold the potential to amplify the visibility, opportunities, and funding available.

Unveiling ground-breaking research

The issues surrounding footwear in women’s football have recently garnered significant attention from women’s football fans. So, understandably, one of the most highly anticipated discussions at the summit revolved around research on women’s football boots.

Led by ECA’s Women’s High Performance Advisory Group in collaboration with Aspetar and St. Mary’s University, research is being conducted that combines data from 3D foot scans with insights from player surveys.

The findings so far shed light on the fact that most football boots currently available in the market do not cater to the unique characteristics of women’s feet.

Additionally, individuals of Caucasian, Hispanic, and mixed ethnicities exhibited a notable similarity in foot shape, whereas Black and Asian players displayed varying levels of increased volume in the dorsal midfoot area.

It is reassuring to witness one of Europe’s prominent football stakeholders addressing this issue with the seriousness it deserves.

The realisation that previous studies conducted on men, by men, are not applicable to the women’s game, is an important step forward in improving the footwear options for women footballers.

Exploring fandom

Another significant session at the Women’s Football Summit focused on ECA’s ongoing research into women’s football fandom, a topic of great importance for those familiar with women’s football.

Understanding the unique behaviours of women’s football fans can help clubs and the industry strengthen connections with fans and tailor marketing efforts to promote the growth and visibility of the game.

In response to member clubs’ request to explore evolving fan behaviors, ECA conducted a comprehensive study across 13 carefully selected markets worldwide. The study provides valuable insights and strategies that clubs can implement, shedding light on the current state of fandom.

One of the key findings underscores the significance of emotional connections and accessible experiences for fans. Vinai Venkatesham, CEO of Arsenal, also shared some challenges faced in maintaining the top position in women’s football, specifically addressing the lack of experience among top clubs in selling and marketing tickets for women’s games – an issue that they have not encountered in the men’s game.

As experts in growing and monetising audiences, we view this as a significant opportunity within the wider industry, and we are excited to capitalise on it.

Capturing key moments

During the two-day event, we played a crucial role in capturing the essence of the summit across social media. We kept our content plans aligned with the overall narrative and schedule, remaining flexible as the summit unfolded.

As our communication strategy relies heavily on knowledge exchange and effective stakeholder communication, we curated real-time information and captured key moments – this involved transcribing quotes from speakers and collaborating with our creative department, who were situated in another room at the venue, to develop engaging assets.

Given the importance of responsible communication for ECA’s reputation, we worked closely with the ECA team to ensure timely content approval and posting.

A significant portion of our day was also dedicated to capturing behind-the-scenes footage that showcased the inner workings of the event.

We developed templates for motion and static assets to maintain consistency and enhance the event’s visibility, ensuring the content aligned with the event’s branding and our creative team also produced a series of videos that took centre stage in front of all the attendees at the event.

A bright future

It fills me with reassruance to witness a serious consideration of crucial issues in women’s football. Notably, the emphasis on investment and support from the top level is encouraging.

Despite the progress made, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, Chairman of the European Club Association, stresses the necessity for further action and financial support to secure a bright future for the sport and advocates increased opportunities for women in various roles.

Having personally worked in women’s football, I am familiar with the challenges the game faces and the frustrations experienced by fans. However, I hold a strong belief that the clubs in Europe are in capable hands and will continue to address these challenges head-on.

Working at the Women’s Football Summit with  ECA was thoroughly enjoyable, and we look forward to supporting their goal of enhancing visibility and driving progress in women’s football as we approach another record-breaking World Cup summer.

Find out more about what it’s like to work with a large scale representative organisation here.