Do not belittle women’s football! We have witnessed a historic day in women’s football in Turkey. The first derby match between Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray women’s football teams on 7th December 2021 will be remembered as an epochal day. It is the very first day that women’s football has officially kicked off!
One should focus on the impact of this derby rather than the scoreboard. These two women’s football teams have made their first collective statement: “Stop violence against women!” Both coaches of the teams have displayed, let’s not say sportsmanlike, a sportswomanlike approach and said: “The only thing that mattered was for both women’s football teams’ players to stand in solidarity at the field for a greater and mutual purpose, and deliver the message “prevent gender-based violence” throughout the game.”
Regardless of counterviews, sports has this power of uniting people around a common cause. Although this common cause is mostly victory, let’s not forget that sports -especially football- can be a societal channel to do wonders, considering the process is managed with a sense of responsibility and through careful communication. Thus, we should consider what sort of social effects women playing football will bring about.
Is football a playground in which only men can succeed? What kind of changes has football made in the lives of female players, of their families and of others? What was its contribution to the social structure?
According to the research and social impact analyses, women who play football state that after they started playing football, their self-expression skills and self-esteem were improved, and they felt like they became role models to girls. Moreover, the analyses demonstrate that female football players get stronger in terms of economic, social, psychological and cultural circumstances in the short run. In the middle and long term, they get over the gender-based stigma which questions their abilities, and begin to feel more powerful and independent whilst becoming more equipped.
At this point, it shall be useful to remember that in order for Turkey to realize its sustainable development agenda, one of the five items which were advised in the reports prepared by the UNDP is “women empowerment”.
To be fair, “Kızlar Sahada” (Girls on the Field) social initiative which has been operating in this field for years and also has been measuring its social impact should be mentioned. Since 2013, towards the goal of a better world without inequalities, they have been leading to a powerful transformation by tearing the gender-based prejudice against women’s capabilities down through football.
When the effect of women and girls playing football on their families is examined, it has been observed that the awareness level of their parents regarding gender equality increased and they became more gender sensitive. What is more, these families began to grow more empathy towards girls playing football, the communication between children and parents got clearer and more cooperative.
Female football players set examples for girls. According to social impact analyses, women’s football has positively affected coaches, club managers, and staff and has transformed social fabric in an inclusive and equitable way.
Another added value women’s football brings about is the new employment opportunities. Female sports journalists and editors working on women’s football, female referees, and coaches can be listed as new and available positions for employment.
Given the significance of the Turkish Football Federation among the football ecosystem, it is vital for female leaders who are responsible for women’s football to be integrated into this structure. So that the importance of women’s football in Turkey can be understood and its vision can be embraced whereas it may also lead to improvements in various global relations and partnerships through reaching out to women’s football clubs across the world. Campaigns and projects on women empowerment carried out by international organisations in fact aim to create this kind of positive social impact with inclusive and equitable principles.
Granting equal payment to female football players amongst football clubs is another issue that needs to be addressed. Do female players get their wages on time in a field that has been acknowledged as male-dominated until now? Do they receive the same rate of wages and bonuses with male players?
Women’s football and women’s football players have significant potential for companies and brands that strategically adopt gender equality, and women-oriented investment models and integrate them into their action plans, especially if these companies and brands produce goods for women. The carried out collaborations with companies and brands in order to emphasize the existence and impact of female football players will also serve as sustainability communication. This communication which is realized via brands will ensure that women’s football is better understood and more appreciated. The first sports club in Turkey to correctly apply this strategy will be the victorious one of the field!
At this stage, it is fundamentally important for football clubs to consider women’s football teams as investments rather than “social responsibility projects”. With this kind of perspective, the women’s football team will turn into an investment for the football club that returns their investment financially whilst creating a positive social impact.
This social impact is achieved through an inclusive and egalitarian investment that is made in line with sustainable development goals, and sensitive to the principle of gender equality. Therefore, the provided social added value beyond the financial profit brings to the sports club in the medium and long term.
Do not belittle women’s football, it has a huge impact!
Source: Anadolu Ajansı