DFB sets new goals for Frauen-Bundesliga and German national team

German flag graphic for "Frauen-Bundesliga Buzz" by Helene Sophie Altgelt

The German football federation has announced a list of ambitious new goals. The main objective to be reached by 2027 is a women’s quota of 30 percent on boards and in management positions.

The DFB also wants to improve the marketing and streaming of the Frauen-Bundesliga, increase its popularity, and recruit more female players, coaches, and referees.

Better accessibility for the Frauen-Bundesliga

The DFB’s vice-president, Hannelore Ratzeburg, announced the federation’s targets for the coming years. From the next season on, statistics are to be integrated in the marketing concept for the Frauen-Bundesliga. To add to this, the DFB want to improve the quality of the broadcasting, bringing it “to the highest level.”

Right now, the rights for the Frauen Bundesliga lay at Magenta Sport, a channel only available in Germany. Though some countries, like Sweden, have their own deals with local channels, the league is not available in most areas. As the contract with Magenta Sport runs out in 2023, the DFB announced they will most likely not extend it and instead look for another channel with a new concept. 

This is excellent news for Frauen Bundesliga fans worldwide since a new broadcaster might stream the games outside of Germany. 

The DFB also seeks to at least double the medial reach of women’s football by 2027. As of now, statistics show that, compared to other leagues, the Bundesliga’s popularity is growing very slowly.

International trophies for national team and clubs

Furthermore, the DFB announced that they want both the national team and the Bundesliga clubs to win international titles until 2027. For the national team, the best chances for that would probably be the European Championships in 2022 and 2025.

On a club level, the statement seems like a hint to the top clubs Bayern and Wolfsburg: “We want to be more ambitious again now, so we also expect more investment from you.”

More active players, coaches and referees

Another target is increasing the number of active players, female coaches, and referees by 25 percent. The number of girls playing football in clubs has decreased for years now — a worry that has been worsened by the Covid pandemic. In some regions, the number of girls playing football has decreased by 70 percent since 2010. In Bayern, one girls’ team out of two has been dissolved in this time span. 

Similarly, the number of female coaches remains low despite efforts to encourage former players to go into coaching. Only one woman is coaching a Bundesliga team right now, Jena’s Anne Pochert. The situation concerning female referees is even worse. Only 3.45 percent of Germany’s referees are female — 1,545 compared to 43,276 male referees.

DFB was under pressure

The introduction of a quota is likely a reaction to the campaign “Fussball kann mehr” (football can do more). Co-founded in 2021 by Germany’s and Wolfsburg’s goalkeeper Almuth Schult, the initiative released a much-publicized paper, demanding among other things this quota and more investment in women’s football.

Though Schult and the other initiators of the campaign advocated for a quota of 30 percent until 2024 and not 2027, the DFB’s objective is as a success for them. 

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What will actually change?

The fact that the DFB has announced these measures and set more ambitious goals is commendable. But how much will this step change?

No concrete measures

In the interview, Hannelore Ratzeburg remained very vague and didn’t name concrete measures. What exactly does the DFB want to do to further increase the popularity and attractiveness of the league? How can they stop the trend that fewer and fewer girls are playing football? The association has not yet given an answer to this question. 

The DFB has recognised what the most urgent problems of women’s football are. But finding concrete solutions is a completely different challenge. 

The same applies to the quota. The goal of 30 percent women on boards is more than many would have believed the DFB capable of. But it is only a target, not a mandatory requirement. The next few years will show whether the DFB really wants to promote women in leadership positions. It would be simplistic for the association to change nothing and then declare that not enough women are ready. 

Profound change or superficial image-polishing?

Another question is how far the change will actually go. It is all well and good to promote women, but it is another matter altogether to promote women who dare to criticise the DFB harshly and demand more profound changes. The structures of the federation are rigid, and the powerful functionaries see change as dangerous rather than promising.

Numerous national players have publicly criticised the DFB for disrespectful behaviour and ignorance. 

DFB harshly criticised by players

Just one of many examples is Schult, who shared her experiences in November last year.

Schult recently reported in a podcast that the DFB’s image, cultivated in interviews and announcements like the most recent one, deviates greatly from reality:

“It’s crazy, people pretend to the outside world that they listen to us and that what we do is great.”

Ex-national player Julia Simic also said in an interview that the DFB has systematically hindered women in football from making an impact.

“They say they want to promote women’s football just as they do men’s football, but they don’t actually give women access to certain positions (…) That is hypocritical.”

Lena Goessling also called the federation out for their performative support and for maintaining a culture of suppressing criticism:

“No one dares to voice criticism anymore. I think criticism can also move things forward. A lot of things are hushed up – or glossed over.”

In a more recent interview, ex-Arsenal and national team defender Tabea Kemme, who ran for presidency at Turbine Potsdam last year, said that many clubs and federations actively oppose innovation. 

“These are opportunities that the club and association structures simply miss. To say, ‘we take former athletes into the system in order to gain a certain power’. People are really fighting tooth and nail against this. No matter how objective the arguments, how innovative the ideas, they are simply not wanted.”

Deep-rooted problems

This deep-rooted sexism and condescension for women’s football is not something that will disappear with the announcement of some goals, that much is certain. To change the status of women’s football in the federation in the long term, it would take a reformation of the DFB from the core.

Right now, the board has 18 members, only one of them a woman and three under 50. This is not what adequate representation looks like. And as the past has shown, when women are not in charge, few policies supporting women will be introduced. 

The principal problem is that an extensive reformation of the DFB would be contrary to the board members’ interests. They are just not likely to pass resolutions that would make them lose their power. 

Adding to that, reforming a federation like the DFB, which has always been a white men’s club, is not a matter of a few months. It would take years to uproot the current structures, to realize a shift of priorities and to establish a different culture. At the moment, few indicates that this fundamental change will happen.

The DFB’s image has been tarnished by several scandals and is seen by many as a federation whose values fit the 70s rather than the present day. In order to regain the favour of its members, the federation would need to present itself as modern and open-minded. These considerations will certainly have played a role in setting the goals. 

DFB expects a lot from the top clubs

Moreover, it seems a little hypocritical that the DFB is now demanding trophies for the national team and in the Champions League. Such ambitious announcements are not bad in themselves, but the DFB now needs to act on them. As of now, the federation demands titles but hasn’t been much of a help so far.

The DFB has not distinguished itself with the special promotion of women’s football. On the contrary, the DFB has under-marketed the Bundesliga for years and neglected the potential of women’s football. But despite these conditions, the DFB now sees it as the clubs’ responsibility to win a few titles after all. 

In short, ambitious words are good but must urgently be followed by actions if the DFB wants to remain credible. It is high time to present concrete measures and concepts and to no longer oppose change but to embrace it.

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