The public diplomacy of women’s football

Griedge Mbock Bathy embraces France teammates Clara Mateo and Grace Geyoro.
Griedge Mbock Bathy celebrates with Clara Mateo and Grace Geyoro of France after scoring at the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 against Belgium. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

The public diplomacy of women’s football has noticeably increased since the pandemic. Public diplomacy is a tool that helps to build positive perceptions through ‘influencing other people’s opinions and attitudes’ (Melissen, 2006).

Public diplomacy is a mechanism to develop positive relations across multidimensional global boundaries in international affairs. Most recently, women’s football has been in the spotlight since the 2022 UEFA Women’s Euro began this month.

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In 1921, The Football Association in England disallowed clubs to let women play football on their grounds, which lasted for about 50 years (Philippou, 2022). Gender disparities within the footballing world continue today. There is just 11% of female representation at the board level in the Premier League and 4% in the Championship (Ibid). Knowing this, and that England is hosting the 2022 UEFA European Championship, makes it that much more special.

Increased visibility of women’s football

The increased visibility and interest of women playing football professionally and the soft power that comes with it. For instance, highlighting the acknowledgement of challenges some of these women have overcome are not gender neutral. An example is the stigma of women’s periods, the related anxieties and the potentially resulting impact on performances.

Yet, public perception of female footballers is that they are ‘strong and confident’ (UEFA, 2020), a sentiment that will inspire young girls. Female footballers are increasingly seen as prominent ambassadors for all they represent on and off the pitch. This ranges from diversity and inclusion, enhancing perceptions of their sponsors and more.

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In conclusion, the public diplomacy exercised by women in football and the soft power they hold is incomparable with limitless potential. What women themselves represent, in addition to the socio-political at domestic and international level they want to or can make, is multidimensionally unparalleled. The increasing interest of varying audiences and spectators reflects a potentially new era of women’s football.

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