This week is important for all of us at World Football Summit. As we’re celebrating seven years of working towards building the football we want and need.
The number seven has always been an important part of football history, with players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, George Best, and Cantona to name a few; and now, it is also part of ours.
In our seventh year, we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate our anniversary than doing what we do best: connect industry leaders to work on creating the football we want. The football we need. Over the course of the last 365 days, we celebrated our first edition of WFS Africa, our seventh edition of WFS Europe, we’ll celebrate our second edition of WFS Asia in December, and for the first time, we’ll bring WFS to the Americas. Not to mention the third edition of Football Innovation Forum in Istanbul and another event in Prague, which brings us to a total of 18 global events in only 7 years.
In our history as a company, we’ve come a long way. We’ve transitioned from an annual gathering in Madrid to a global business platform that connects business professionals, clubs, leagues, and federations through its events, educates through its podcast, reports, and resources, and strives to leave this sport better than we found it. These seven years we’ve celebrated the work of countless professionals, promoted women in sports, and built an environment where people in the industry can network and learn from the brightest minds in football.
To celebrate these years together, we leave you with our top 7 WFS highlights from 2016 to 2023.
Our first panel on the World Football Summit stageIn 2016 we held our very first World Football Summit Congress in Madrid.
Back in 2015 our Co-founders Marian Otamendi and Jan Alessie sat down and realized that Spain was a world reference when it came to football. That only in Spain, the football industry generated 1% of the country’s GDP at the time, and yet, there was a clear need for the industry to gather to discuss, learn, and accelerate business opportunities within the sport.
How was it that football industry professionals did not have an event to meet? Between that moment and the inauguration of our very first edition of World Football Summit, the road was not easy and many things happened, but the determination and drive of the team they put together made it a reality. But how much has changed since then? Well, to begin with, back then most of our panels were in Spanish, meaning most of our audience was local at the time and we only had 3 tracks; now, most of our events are 48 hours of non-stop networking, and our panels are mostly handled in English, we have 11 tracks and our audience comes from over 100 countries in the world. Oh my, how we’ve grown since then! Take a look at our first WFS Panel:
When the game starts, football belongs to the players. They are the only stars. But for footballers to shine on the pitch, the hidden work of countless professionals off it across the industry’s multiple sectors is required. The WFS Awards acknowledge and reward the achievements of the people and organizations who are making change happen and whose talent, passion, and dedication will help us reach a more profitable, professional, and sustainable football industry.
In 2017 we held our first WFS Awards ceremony and we’ve come a long way since then, with six Awards Galas in the books, in which 12 change-makers are honored for helping push the football industry to new frontiers. But the mission to acknowledge and reward the achievements of executives, managers, brands, agencies, media, NGOs and other professionals whose talent, passion and dedication to take the business of football to another level has been true to our core since the beginning.
This year, our WFS Awards took an additional step as we inaugurated the Lifetime Achievement Award by honoring the career of FIFA’s General Secretary Fatma Samoura
WFS Live – The show must go on.
2020 was one of the hardest times our global industry and society has faced in recent years. Back in early 2020, our team was arriving in South Africa to host our very first WFS Africa, unfortunately, the world had other plans. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit we were just a few days away from our event, which meant that we had to postpone and enter the lockdown era. Months went by, and so, in the middle of the darkest times, we decided to adapt. The knowledge was there, our speakers were there, and the will to learn was there. We just couldn’t be there in the same room. And then…VOILÁ! WFS Live was born.
More than 3,400 industry professionals gathered for our first WFS Live, an online event that brought the football industry’s community together again to share the experiences and lessons learned during the COVID-19 hiatus and discuss the upcoming challenges for our industry and its athletes. Our event allowed attendees from around the world to engage with the speakers and interact with their peers via group discussions or video calls.
It was such a success, that on November 2020 we launched a second edition over 5 days with 49 conferences and more than 150 speakers.
World Football Summit a Global Platform.
Did you really believe we’d call ourselves World Football Summit and just stay in Madrid? Yeah, we didn’t either! These past seven years have been quite a ride. While we were working on our rebranding, a Summa Branding team member asked us “If WFS had a home, where would it live?” our immediate answer was “A PLANE!”. We’ve taken the word “world” pretty literally out of our name, taking the brand global was always part of the plan and our history doesn’t lie:
2016 – World Football Summit, Madrid
2017 – World Football Summit, Madrid
2018 – Women’s Football Summit, Madrid
2018 – World Football Summit, Madrid
2019 – World Football Summit, Madrid
2019 – WFS Asia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2020 – WFS Live
2021 – WFS Europe, Madrid
2022 – Football Innovation Forum, Sevilla
2022 – WFS Europe, Sevilla
2022 – WFS Africa, Durban, South Africa
2023 – Defending European Football For All – Prague
2023 – Football Innovation Forum, Istanbul, Turkey
2023 – WFS Europe, Sevilla
2023 – WFS Asia, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – Register now!
2024 – Football Innovation Forum, London, England – Pre-Register now!
2024 – WFS Americas (New event!) – Pre-Register now!
This is just the beginning.
It’s needless to say that without the incredible talent within our industry, our event would not be the same. We’ve been fortunate enough to have had some of the best and brightest minds in our industry join us in our WFS adventures. Along the way we’ve had more than 1.400 speakers share their expertise in our events. We couldn’t fit them in this post, but believe us when we tell you we would love it! Some of the top speakers we’ve had the pleasure of hosting include:
– Fatma Samoura | FIFA’s Former General Secretary
– Javier Tebas | President of LALIGA
– Peter Moore | Liverpool’s CEO
– Ronaldo Nazário | Chairman at Real Valladolid FC
– Sir Martin Sorrel | Executive Chairman at S4 Capital
– Cindy Parlow Cone | President of US Soccer Federation
– Alexis Ohanian | Founder of Seven Seven Six
– Peace Nobel Laurate Prof. Muhammad Yunus | Founder of Yunus Sports Hub
– Ivan Rakitic | Professional Football Player at Sevilla FC
A Common Goal: Winning the game of the future
The teams that make history are those who commit to playing the long game and support each other through the thick and thin. Since its inception, Common Goal has been one of those organizations for us, and it has been an honor to “be in the arena” with them throughout these years.
Some of our initiatives together include:
– Donating part of our ticketing revenue to the victims of the conflict in Ukraine.
– Donating proceeds from the inaugural WFS Live event to both Common Goal and Fundação Fenômenos.
– Giving the proceeds of the second edition of WFS Live to Common Goal’s Covid-19 Relief Fund.
The football we want. The football we need.
We have done so much, but there is still a lot to be done. We need an industry that commits to excellence, innovation and sustainability, and these are the core pillars of our rebranding.
Football isn’t just about kicking a ball; it’s a catalyst for societal transformation. It was only fitting that in the year we’re reaching new frontiers and breaking new barriers, our brand reflected the values and drive we bring to the game. It was time to re-design our playbook, to connect with other professionals who believe that football can and must be better. On September 2023 we announced our rebranding in collaboration with Summa Branding.
Under an audacious claim“The football we want. The football we need.” We aim to unite those working in the global football industry toward making it more professional, sustainable, and one that those who work in it are proud to champion.
Impressive, right? Well, we’re just getting started.
We’re not just offering events and content; we’re offering a chance to be part of something bigger: a movement that focuses on accelerating business, creating long-lasting partnerships, meaningful friendships, and, quite simply, designing a better world.
7 years have flown by, but now, let’s focus on making a 7×7 impact on the football world….together