Sol Campbell at World Football Summit

2023: The year the football we want and need was born

· by World Football Summit

In a year full of milestones, we’re reflecting on how far we’ve come, and how much there’s still to go until we reach our goal: a better football industry. The football we want and need. 

As 2023 comes to a close, at World Football Summit we are looking back on our year to think about what we have achieved, about what frontiers are still there to conquer, and, most importantly, about how we are going to do it

This has been an important year for us. Among many other things, it has been the year of unleashing a new identity, of female leadership, the year where we made Istanbul, Sevilla, and Jeddah, global capitals of the football industry. We’ve broken world records and glass ceilings, and we have observed that the common thread in everything we have done is we feel very passionate about “change.” Its realization and our desire for it. 

A revamped World Football Summit: The football we want. The football we need.

Perhaps, as a starting point, we would like to say that there is nothing that has changed as much as we have. Early in the year, we recognized our global platform wasn’t just a stage—it was a responsibility. The winds of “change” were knocking on the industry’s door.

As we told you back in February:

  • Only 10% of board seats at top football clubs are occupied by women
  • Ticket prices in major European leagues have become 28.3% more expensive in the last 13 years.
  • The global football industry produces the same carbon dioxide emissions each year as a country like Denmark.

So we asked ourselves: is this an industry we are proud to be a part of? We didn’t like the answer, and so we strove to change it.



Our commitment? To go beyond events and content, to unite those working in the global football industry through partnerships, meaningful business relationships, and friendships. We envision a more professional, sustainable, and proud ecosystem—an industry we’re all thrilled to champion.

In a word: better. 

The change in football we want to see

We wanted change and so we made it happen. First, by breaking a world record! In collaboration with Real Betis Balompié and Integrated Dreams, we hosted 1740 disabled fans who joined us in the Benito Villamarín stadium for a game between Real Betis and Real Valladolid. This number surpassed the prior record by 700 people, proving it is not impossible for any football fan, whoever they are, to enjoy the sport if we make it possible.

And soon after, coinciding with International Women’s Day, we took a stand on celebrating women not just on a specific day, but all year long. Yes, women’s football is unlocking unprecedented levels of growth and finally getting the recognition it deserves.

But, what about the amazing women “off the pitch” who are helping push the beautiful game forward?

Our Female Leaders took flight, emphasizing our dedication to honoring the role and importance women have in the industryHere, we believe that women’s stories matter; every single voice can be inspiring to the whole world. Don’t take it from us though, just read these fantastic lessons 11 remarkable women left in our podcast.


This initiative is intricately woven into the fabric of our events, podcasts, and content, and you can participate by subscribing to our newsletter, attending WFS or just sharing your story


The global platform the football industry needs

Our flagship event: World Football Summit Europe

But this is not a change we want to keep in-house. We want it all over the world. And that is why we have promoted it in every single one of our events, whether they were big or small. 

By now, Sevilla has become a second home to our platform, which is where our seventh WFS Europe came to life in September. Professionals from all over the world came to discuss, network, and learn about football’s current landscape and work towards building the football we want and need. Some of these changemakers included:

  • Fatma Samoura – General Secretary at FIFA
  • Sir Martin Sorrell – Executive Chairman at S4 Capital
  • Julie Uhrman – Founder and President of Angel City
  • Todd Kline – Chief Commercial Officer at Tottenham Hotspurs
  • Ivan Rakitic – Professional football player at Sevilla FC

Did you miss it? Not to worry, we have got you covered with the official WFS Europe after movie.

The first events in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Czech Republic

2023 was also a year of many “firsts” for us. In December, Jeddah became the global capital of football and welcomed the football ecosystem with open arms to host our second edition of World Football Summit Asia.

This was the first-ever industry event of its kind in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and we are proud to be the ones putting our stamp on it. Expectations were high, but the event delivered on its promise, which was not difficult when some of the most brilliant minds in football did not hesitate to be part of the event, including:

  • Nobel Laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus
  • Lamia Bahaian – Vice President at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation
  • Windsor Paul John – General Secretary Asian Football Confederation
  • Clarence Seedorf – Football legend and Serie A Ambassador
  • Michael Emenalo – Chief Football Executive at the Roshn Saudi League

One quote that stands out from the amount of knowledge that was shared on the WFS Stage, comes from Adwa Al Arifi, Assistant Minister of Sports Affairs for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia:

«Football is played on our streets and lives in our hearts. It unites us.»


And we didn’t stop in our summits. In April, we hosted “Defending European Football for All in Prague” to discuss how to preserve the essence of football in the European Region. This is a conversation that seems extremely relevant during this time…

Furthermore, Istanbul was home to Football Innovation Forum in June. Through enlightening panels and inspiring discussions, the idea that the future of football embraces innovation was reinforced.


Juan Mata Speaks at World Football Summit


The journey towards building the football we want never ends

More glass ceilings to shatter, more goals to score. Our mission is clear: to build a better industry for everyone. London, Mexico, and beyond—the match continues, and the ball’s in your court.

The football we want, and need, is an ongoing match that never ends. It requires passion, commitment, and ambition.

Will you play the game or watch from the sidelines? The choice is yours.