A day before England’s ‘Lionesses’ beat Germany to claim the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, Brazil’s women won their 8th Copa América Femenina, beating Colombia 1-0. But has the growing interest in the women’s game seen in Europe been matched in Latin America?
A former Brazilian professional women’s player turned coach has followed the game for decades, “The growth of women’s football in recent years has surprised me. I’ve been a part of this game for so long and this new level of interest gives me enormous joy. Of course, not all Latin American countries are equally advanced, but we do see that in general there is growth in all of them. Brazil and Colombia are way ahead but others, like Argentina, are catching up quickly.”
“The growth of women’s football in recent years has surprised me. I’ve been a part of this game for so long and this new level of interest gives me enormous joy.”
Former player turned coach, Brazil
With such exciting growth prospects, major corporations are starting to invest in the game too, according to a Brazilian sports advertising executive, “At the brand sponsorship level, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (Fiscal Oilfields “YPF”), is making a very important investment and multinational brands such as Mastercard and Nike have contracts with many players, especially with the younger ones. Pepsico, through its Gatorade brand, and also Unilever are following suit. It was also interesting to see that Adidas launched the men’s World Cup shirt at the women’s Copa América.”
Most Brazilian players play regularly in the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, the women’s elite league, which continues to grow after being established in 2013. In a clear example of the increasing interest in the women’s game, Globo, a leading Brazilian media conglomerate, acquired the television rights to broadcast 40 games from the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A and all the games of the national team in February this year.
In Argentina, just 55% of the national league footballers are professional players. There is still room for improvement as only five teams, Boca Juniors, River Plate, San Lorenzo, Racing de Avellaneda and Gimnasia La Plata have more than 20 professional players in their squads. Furthermore, the standard salary for an Argentinean player is the equivalent of the wages earned by third division men players. Local authorities are trying to reduce the gap with the Strategic Female Football Plan 2021-2026 launched by the Argentinean Football Association. The plan establishes that all first division teams must have 12 professional players by 2026.
A sign of progress in female football professionalisation is the increasing number of transfers, led by Argentina with 5,000 and followed by Colombia and Mexico. However, more work needs to be done at grassroots level throughout Latin America to consolidate local professional structures. In Mexico, the Football Federation (“FMF”), in collaboration with FIFA, the international body governing football, launched several scouting sessions in ten cities throughout the country to attract young talents to be part of the under-15 national team. The best 46 players will be granted a place in a high-performance centre overseen by the FMF.
The US is also an important factor in the women’s game globally, explained the advertising executive, “A major difference, and benefit, of the women’s game is that the US is at the frontier of the game’s development and we all know that when something catches on in the US, the money flows. It’s really an exciting time for women’s football.”
“A major difference, and benefit, of the women’s game is that the US is at the frontier of the game’s development and we all know that when something catches on in the US, the money flows.”
Sports advertising executive, Brazil
There are still hurdles to overcome though, as a sports executive at Televisa highlighted, “Many industry stakeholders still see women’s football as a minor business and although they value the potential, the argument persists that ‘women do not fill stadiums’ and with that pretext they justify the tremendous wage gap between male and female players, regardless of quality, there is still this image that this is a man’s sport.”