Speaking exclusively to World Football Summit ahead of her appearance at WFS Europe at the Wanda Metropolitano from 22-23 September, Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper and N3XT Sports director of women’s football, Arianna Criscione, shares her insight on the game and how many clubs and organisations are still only paying lip service to women’s football as a way of ticking boxes.
What would you say the biggest obstacles are now for young women getting into the game?
It’s a weird thing because there are obstacles but they’re good obstacles. When you talk about good problems, that in itself is a good problem. For example, we’re still fighting for how much media coverage we get but we’re finding that it’s the amount, not that there is coverage. There is media coverage, nobody can argue about the fact that there is. We just wish there was more, more coverage being aired at prime time and more promotion around the coverage.
So, we’re fighting for a bigger piece of the pie but at least now we’re sitting at the table and the pie is in front of us, so the obstacles are just changing.
It sounds like there’s more opportunity than obstacle, is that fair to say?
I would definitely say there is more opportunity. I think those opportunities can be refined and we can make them better, which is what we’re actually hoping to do at N3XT Sports and create a more sustainable future for women’s football.
There are more clubs, more teams, there are more countries trying to actually professionalise the game, which is a really big step in the right direction and people don’t realise how important that is for the sport.
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For example, it allows money to go into your retirement, it stabilises your job, it helps you medically and helps with so many natural, common things. But by actually getting that title of professionalisation it will help everything become more stable and the recognition is important too.
Arianna, where do you fit into N3XT Sports, especially as a new pillar of the company with the women’s football sides of things, and what’s your ambition in the position?
We see a huge gap in the lack of strategies and structures of the women’s game, discussing with my colleagues at N3XT Sports, they agreed that they saw the same gap. Together we decided that with my expertise in women’s football together we could tackle these issues and help bring sustainability to the game.
And we’re really trying to make tailor-made strategies and helping develop different parts of the game from the business and innovation perspective. In the women’s game there’s a lack of studies and documents about women’s bodies and how that relates to high performance. We can’t be scared to talk about our periods and how that affects our performance. It’s a huge problem for players that they are not in comfortable environments where they can discuss these things. We have different bodies than men and we have to address it from the performance perspective.
Then, we really see that you have a lot of clubs that are putting money into women’s football, or they’re ‘giving money’ to women’s football, but they’re basically putting it in a box that has a hole in the bottom. The money goes in and the money goes out and there’s no strategy on how to put tape to try to stop that hole on the bottom of the box and actually look at it as an investment. We want to help build a new box with no hole to start with.
I think the word ‘investment’ is thrown around way too much in women’s football and it’s not an investment if you don’t have a plan and you don’t understand if you’re going to get an ROI or where that ROI comes from – whether that ROI is a massive dollar amount, whether it’s social good in the community, raising the profile of the club, and so on.
With N3XT Sports we want to come in and help and just create a sustainable structure that actually starts to develop the women’s game.
Do you think people are still just paying lip service to women’s football, rather than coming up with actual solutions to and taking real action?
Unfortunately, I think 90 percent of it is lip service and it’s either organisations or clubs stepping up because they’re supposed to say it, or it’s a keyword right now to talk about your women’s team and express the equality that you believe is in your club. How much backing and how much investment are the clubs truly giving? I don’t mean just financial but physical manpower, actually caring about your women’s team is a whole different story.
Some clubs are doing a fabulous job about it. Other clubs it’s a lot of lip service and just putting the right words out there and we’re hoping to change that aspect.
Let’s talk a little bit about your involvement with WFS. You were at WFS Live last time out, was it something you enjoyed?
I did. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little nervous to go on stage this time. This [on a screen] is super easy for me. I’m staring at a screen, if I’m uncomfortable I can look at myself, or focus on one person on the screen as if it’s a more intimate conversation. This time, when I look out and there will be hundreds of people looking back at me, it’s going to be a whole new experience! So WFS [Live], that was amazing, that was great and I’m nervous but excited to be part of WFS Europe.
You can see Arianna take to the WFS stage at the Wanda Metropolitano this September by booking your place HERE.
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