The inaugural ECA Women's Football Summit kicked off today in London - an historic event that marks a milestone for women's club football in Europe. The landmark gathering brought together prominent figures, experts and stakeholders from across the women's football community, sparking discussions on shaping the future of the game.
The first day of the Summit, hosted by football broadcaster and commentator Jacqui Oatley, reviewed the main achievements of ECA’s Be A Changemaker strategy launched in 2021 and showcased a diverse range of sessions from industry-leading speakers that delved into the crucial challenges faced by women's football clubs.
ECA Chairman, Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, delivered a powerful opening address, expressing the high priority that women's football holds at ECA:“I'm proud and honoured to be here today with you for the first-ever ECA Women’s Football Summit, with FIFA, UEFA, Leagues, Clubs, FIFPRO representatives and all the stakeholders from the women’s football industry. Looking forward, our work has only started. Women’s football needs more investment, innovation, expertise and visibility. Women’s football needs ‘change-makers'. I am confident that we have the right people in the room at this Summit to lead us forward. Women’s football has the full support of the entire ECA Executive Board and myself. Let’s all work together for the benefit of the women’s game - when we work together, we achieve our greatest results.”
ECA CEO, Charlie Marshall, then welcomed all the attendees and provided an important update on the association's governance changes, reflecting the pivotal role of women's football in shaping the future of the organisation. The reforms, approved at the recent General Assembly, introduce a dedicated pathway for clubs to qualify for full membership based on the performance of their women's teams, ensuring significant opportunities for participation and decision-making.
Commenting on the reforms, Marshall stated:“The potential and promise of women's club football in Europe are boundless and we must seize this golden opportunity to elevate the sport to unprecedented heights. Furthermore, we must not overlook the significance of fostering equal representation and diversity within the game and its governance. Our vision extends beyond the pitch, for we strive to create a landscape where women not only have a seat at the table but also influence the highest echelons of the game.”
ECA Head of Women's Football Claire Bloomfield then took the stage to celebrate over two years of remarkable achievements since the launch of Be A Changemaker, ECA's first dedicated women's football strategy.
“The ECA Women’s Football Summit is a chance for us all to pause, acknowledge how far we’ve come and appreciate the difference we have made for girls everywhere,” she said. “As leaders, we have a lot in common – and will go to extraordinary lengths to make a transformative difference to the game we love – inspiring a new generation of female leaders in football along the way. We share the same end goal, and although naturally sometimes we want to take different paths to get there, there is always an overriding willingness to sit around the table and find a way forward.”
One of the most anticipated sessions of the day was the presentation on ECA's women's football boots research. This ground-breaking study revealed key results that shed light on the issues related to footwear in women's football. The research was steered by ECA's Women's High Performance Advisory Group, composed of medical and high-performance professionals working specifically with women’s teams, and conducted by industry-leading experts in the field. It combines quantitative data such as player 3D foot scans with qualitative insights from in-depth player surveys.
ECA is addressing a perceived knowledge gap in the industry with the ultimate aim of ensuring every woman and girl can play football in boots specifically engineered for the needs of female players.
ECA's research underscores the importance of designing female-specific football boots that prioritise player fit, comfort and performance, encouraging collaboration with the industry to develop innovative solutions.
Attendees to the first day of the Summit had the privilege of gaining valuable insights from Arsenal CEO, Vinai Venkatesham, who discussed the challenge of staying at the top of the women’s game after celebrating the 35th anniversary of their women’s team last season.
“Women's football runs deep in our DNA. It's ingrained in our heart and soul. For over 35 years, Arsenal Ladies, as it was called then, has been a significant part of our club. In addition to winning 50+ major trophies, we have consistently pioneered innovation in the game.” said Venkatesham.
Throughout the day the ECA Women's Football Summit's exemplified the association’s commitment to providing a platform for meaningful dialogue, knowledge exchange, and collaboration to drive the women's game forward.
Highlights on day two of the Summit include a sit-down interview with Jean-Michel Aulas, Chair of ECA’s Women’s Football Committee, who has made an indelible impact on women's club football across Europe over several decades. There will also be a presentation on from the NWSL's newest franchise, Bay FC, ahead of an update on the ongoing ECA research into women’s football fandom, and a discussion on the future of the club competition landscape.