The chairperson of the Nigerian Women Football League (NWFL), Nkechi Obi, has unveiled strategic plans to drive the women’s league.
Ms Obi, who assumed the leadership of the NWFL in July, held her first media briefing with journalists in Abuja, tagged, ‘Women’s Football Rising’. This is to tackle the developmental challenges facing the women’s league, which is scheduled to start in October.
Ms Obi said the platform was first presented by her team at the 2023 Women’s World Cup watch party on 20 August. The aim is to track growth, enhance business and commercial value, and create sustainable grassroots development for players through the over 150 clubs in the country.
Speaking in the context of the just concluded FIFA Women’s World Cup, where Nigeria, Morocco, and South Africa progressed to the knockout stage, Obi gave her insight into how women’s football is becoming a most sought-after commodity.
“We are all witnesses to the global rise in women’s football with an increasing record of corporate sponsorship, audience, and matchday attendance.
“It is now one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and reference is made regularly to its global growth potential. The Women’s World Cup 2023 was a global phenomenon, capturing the hearts of over 2 billion viewers worldwide.
“The stadiums in Australia witnessed a spectacle of passion and skill, with more than 30,000 fans cheering for their favourite national teams in every match.
“This is a testament to the undeniable rise of women’s football and a strong foothold to build upon,” Obi emphasised.
From a professional football perspective, women’s club football has also done remarkably well, with Barcelona FC setting the women’s football attendance record in April 2022 with over 91,000 fans at Camp Nou.
International transfer fees in professional women’s football hit a record of US$3.3 million in 2022, more than the combined transfer figures of 2021 and 2022.”
Stating her plans, the NWFL chairperson said the new top-flight division will see 16 teams compete, compared to 14 in the past.
Growth in women’s football
Meanwhile, Ms Obi also added that the recent growth in women’s football will end the knowledge gap in the area.
“The rapid expansion of women’s football globally and in Africa offers an opportunity to address the lack of capacity in women’s football clubs, the shortage of volunteers, poor access to quality facilities, and gaps in the player pathway in Nigeria.
“Business people can create new or buy into existing clubs to intentionally drive a joined-up approach by all stakeholders with the girl-player at the heart of the plan. This will encourage young schoolgirls to join clubs and offer them an unbroken pathway to realise their aspirations.”
She further added that there must be a need to create a viable opportunity to allow grassroots development in women’s football with attention on clubs’ developmental programs.
With several programs set up, Ms Obi stressed that there will be developmental programs called “class to pitch” set up for players, coaches, referees, club media officers, and capacity development training in governance, management, and administration for club administrators.
“Our players continue to ignite a spark of inspiration that has reverberated through every corner of our nation. From the grassroots to the pinnacle of the sport, their triumphs in both the national team and professional clubs have energised a community of over 5,000 players, coaches, and officials in the women’s football league in Nigeria.
“There are increasing opportunities for our players to play professionally in major leagues across the world, but we need to understand that these major leagues cannot fully absorb our talents, and there is therefore a need to create a viable career pathway for talents coming out of Nigeria.
“We also recognise that our success in empowering women through sports and driving economic growth depends on our ability to create a professional women’s football ecosystem in Nigeria.
Globally, clubs are at the heart of football development, and a club development strategy should therefore be at the very foundation for the development of women’s football in Nigeria, as the most sustainable model to drive professionalism in the game and achieve women’s empowerment and economic growth through sports.”
Moreover, a developmental program called “Football and the Girl Child” will be introduced to encourage young girls across the six geopolitical zones and the FCT.
Social Media and Commercial Value
Ms Obi explained that the NWFL can be in the minds of football lovers in the country if the stakeholders, players, and coaches are intentional in driving the league.
Answering a question on the goal of getting 1 million viewers, Obi said the league has over 5,000 players, and a social media campaign via their social media handles can raise awareness about the league.
While discussing the marketing and funding of the league, she continued that the league will adopt a “he for she” campaign and “sisterhood” to organise crowdfunding.
“Service providers and consultants across several spheres of endeavour, especially communications, marketing and experiential services, will be engaged to ensure the NWFL’s values and ethos are well captured in our communications and engagements with our immediate and remote stakeholders and partners.
“We have also commenced our marketing campaign with the goal of getting the right corporate and development partners on board to help us achieve our growth objectives,” Obi concluded.
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