The inaugural ECA Women's Football Summit came to a close today in London after two days of intense debates, lively discussions and insightful presentations. The Summit also served as a platform for stakeholders to celebrate the achievements of ECA’s Be A Changemaker strategy and set the course for ECA's work, post-2024
The final day of the Summit included a fireside chat with Jean-Michel Aulas, Chair of ECA’s Women’s Football Committee and visionary leader in the game. Aulas, who also sits on the ECA Executive Board, has been an integral part of the ECA family since its inception in 2008, and his unwavering commitment to women's football has been instrumental in driving progress across the game globally.
As the catalyst behind the creation of the ECA Women's Football Committee in 2013, Aulas has been a pioneer in propelling the game to new heights. Under his leadership at club level, Olympique Lyonnais achieved unprecedented success, winning the UEFA Women’s Champions League a record eight times and solidifying their status as one of the greatest women’s club teams in history.
Reflecting on the extraordinary progress of the women's game in Europe, Aulas said:
“ECA has been instrumental in driving progress across Europe. From our initial conversations, the members demonstrated belief in the women's game, and together, we have accomplished remarkable feats. Successful clubs rely on a strong vision and business model, encompassing both sports and commercial aspects. We have witnessed a great trajectory in that regard."
Looking ahead, Aulas shared his optimism for the future, stating:
“On the European level, my hopes start with ECA. However, it is no longer about hope but is based on something much more tangible which has already been built. We need to continue to attract investment and people who are passionate about women’s football. We are witnessing a real transformation in the global game.
“Whether you like it or not, women’s football is the future. It will reach a level of professionalism comparable to, if not surpassing, that of the men's game. I strongly believe this.”
Attendees also heard a compelling case study from Aly Wagner, former US Women’s National Team player and Founding Partner & Co-Chair of Bay FC, who spoke of the exciting opportunities facing the NWSL’s newest franchise:
“We want to prove that a women’s sport brand can be a global brand, standing shoulder to shoulder with iconic brands in men’s sport. We are at a critical inflection point, in a market that knows how to innovate and break boundaries. Together, we will grow the global game.”
Another significant session at the Summit focused on ECA's ongoing study into women's football fandom. Research and analysis play a pivotal role in ECA's approach to women's football development, and the organisation has responded to the request from member clubs to investigate evolving fan behaviours.
The study examines the current state of fandom across 13 carefully identified markets worlwide, offering valuable insights and strategies that clubs can implement. The findings look at the importance of forging emotional connections with fans and ensuring accessible experiences in stadiums and across media platforms. The full report of this comprehensive study will be published in summer 2023.
The first-ever ECA Women's Football Summit ends having successfully accomplished its goals of celebrating key achievements, fostering collaboration, and laying the groundwork for the next phase in the development of women's club football in Europe.