The head of Women’s Football in New Zealand, Michele Cox, has been in South Africa shadowing Banyana Banyana’s preparations for the African Women’s Championships, as a part of her input in FIFA’s Com-Unity project.
Cox, who is on a FIFA Women’s Football assignment to develop constructive proposals on the development of the game, was invited by Fran Hilton-Smith after the two met at FIFA’s U20 Women’s World Championships, in Russia last month.
Cox describes the intended goals of the course she is developing as including the social development of federation countries, as well as particularly in the soccer context.
‘South Africa is miles ahead in some respects,” enthused Cox to gsport yesterday, as she monitored Banyana Banyana’s warm-up match against the U17 boys squad from Transnet’s School of Excellence, in Johannesburg.
“My input is on marketing and communications,” said Cox. “SA has provided examples of most progressive development of the women’s game, and you have notable communication experts here, including (soccer commentator and analyst) Mark Gleason and Ian Riley.”
Hailing from Auckland, where Cox heads up women’s football in New Zealand, Cox was amazed at some of the case studies South Africa can provide, naming the 2000 Sanlam coup as heading the list.
“In search of a sponsor for the women’s team in 2000, Sanlam injected R2million into the team, and ran advertising promoting savings accounts in conjunction with their efforts.”
“Sanlam was reported to have brought in R15m in new business resulting from this input, this is the kind of success story South Africa is capable of showing the world,” said Cox.
Cox points out that an estimated 40 million women play soccer world-wide; “All this without any active marketing,” she adds quickly.
Cox is assisting the development of a coaching skills module to assist instructors in marketing communications, and to teach “relationship marketing” and associated skills.
Even in some of the more affluent federations need prodding to devote more time and capacity to the women’s game, says Cox.
“The issues are always the same,” laments Cox. “Lack of support and resources from national bodies, stereotyped gender-related cultural issues, lack of awareness, limited media coverage, all of this results in the perception that women footballers are second-class citizens.
For example, in Samoa, once a woman marries, it is thought to be unacceptable that she participates in sporting codes,” Cox told gsport, citing a commonly-encountered concern.
“But I really admire the level of coverage in South Africa,” concludes Cox, “Fran (Hilton-Smith) is crucial to the development of the game in your country!”
Never about to miss an opportunity to promote her country’s involvement in the game, Cox is proud to confirm that New Zealand has recently won the bid to host the U17 Women’s World Cup in 2008, where 3 African countries will qualify for participation.