Making African Women’s Football Truly Globally Competitive - Part 2
III. African Women’s Football
CAF Women’s Football Strategy Overview
In its introduction, the CAF Women’s Football Strategy defines its focus as “building women’s football foundations, creating clear player pathways and professionalising women’s football” in Africa. The strategy outlines 5 key focus areas that will guide the women’s football development between 2020 and 2023, namely; development, competitions, marketing and promotion, professionalisation and leadership, and social impact. CAF’s vision for women’s football from 2020 to 2023 is a “robust African women’s football identity that gives girls and women playing opportunities, careers and representation”. In setting out to achieve this vision, the strategy’s mission is to “strengthen African women’s football identity by creating sustainable and empowering career pathways”.
Professionalisation of African Women’s Football
The CAF Women’s Champions League (CAFWCL) club licensing regime has, to some extent, effectively formalised the professionalisation of clubs competing at the upper end of women’s football in Africa. The licensing procedure is a critical component of ensuring that the women’s football sector in Africa sets high professional standards. The CAF club licensing regime sets out criteria which competing teams must satisfy in order to participate in CAF women’s football competitions. In this regard, the criteria sets out sporting, infrastructure, administrative, legal and financial standards that participating clubs must satisfy in order to take part in the CAFWCL. These regulatory requirements safeguard the integrity of the competition and ensure that there is a level playing field and all participating teams are compliant with CAF competition’s rules.
Supporting the professionalisation of these womens’ football domestic leagues will inevitably allow for the CAFWCL to expand the competitions format and level of quality. In its inaugural edition during November 2021, the WCL comprised 12 participating teams. For the CAFWCL to flourish, there ought to be a strategic emphasis on improving the standard of domestic football competitions. In this way, the CAFWCL and domestic leagues have a symbiotic relationship in that the success of domestic league football improves the quality of the continental competitions and vice versa. Domestic leagues, such as the HollywoodBets Women’s Super League in South Africa, Moroccan Women’s Championship and the Ghana Women’s Premier League, hold boundless potential to be globally competitive football competitions. In the CAF Women’s Football Strategy, CAF commits itself to developing domestic competitions at youth and senior level. As such, there is a clear commitment from CAF to contribute to the growth of national leagues in its Member association’s jurisdictions.
Furthermore, it is of paramount importance that technical, educational and financial investment be directed to the development of grassroots initiatives in order to strengthen the development of the next generation of footballers for the women’s game. As mentioned in the CAF Women’s Football Strategy, creating player pathways is dependent on the strength and capacity of local clubs and grassroots programmes. In this respect, the CAF African Schools Programme is a grassroots initiative that is certain to continuously produce opportunities for young girls to take on football as an extra-mural. In addition to this, grassroots women’s football teams, such as Badgers Football Academy in South Africa, require higher levels of sustainable engagement and investment – from CAF, national federations, private sector and other relevant stakeholders – for these grassroots clubs to be adequately equipped to discover and harness the development of girls interested in football.
Commercial Partnerships and Sponsorships for African Women’s Football
With TikTok being an official sponsor of CAF – along with the social platform’s ongoing investment in women’s sport – there appears to be a major brand in line to grow the brand and commercial value of the women’s game in Africa. Taking into account its sponsorship investment in women’s sport, TikTok is an increasingly prominent brand in the rise of women’s sport. In 2021, for example, TikTok became the first ever title partner of the Women’s Six Nations in a deal that will see the short-form video service create further exposure for women’s rugby. The innovatively structured partnership will see every competing union be allocated “TikTok rugby creators to produce content around the Six Nations [while the] platform will introduce custom effects and hashtag challenges designed to boost engagement”. A similar strategy, which incorporates appropriate adjustments to suit Africa’s emerging digital sports media sector, could be successful if applied to the women’s game in Africa. In this respect, CAFWCL teams being provided resources and technical support from TikTok to grow their international audience can potentially have a far-reaching impact on the growth of audiences for African women’s football.
It is crucial that brands who invest in African women’s football have a multifaceted partnership strategy rather than one purely based on financial investment. In March 2022, for example, Delta Air Lines announced a commercial deal with the National Women’s Soccer League (NSWL) to be the league’s official airline and travel partner. As part of the partnership, Delta is supporting the NSWL by initiating “women empowerment programmes and diversity, equality and inclusion initiatives”. In line with this approach, brands who are interested in advancing women’s football on the African continent ought to bring more than just funds to the table when securing partnerships within the women’s game.
Moreover, greater revenues from commercial partners and sponsorships can in turn increase the prize money available in CAF women’s competitions. In 2022, CAF increased the winner’s prize money of the WAFCON from $975 000 to $2.4 million, however, there still remains an enormous disparity in the value of competition prize money compared to European women’s football. For context, the winners of Women’s Euros 2022 received $16 million – approximately six and half times more than the WAFCON winner’s pot. Despite men’s football lying outside the scope of this paper, it is worth noting that the Women’s Euros 2022 winner’s prize money is more than the $11.5 million that the winners of the inaugural CAF Africa Super League will receive. Ultimately, the commercial revenues that women’s football generates in the future will directly influence the remunerative levels of competition prize money, continental transfer market and player salaries.
Global Broadcasting of African Women’s Football
The WAFCON 2022 has demonstrated that the world’s top sports broadcasters see the attraction of women’s football in Africa. BBC, Canal+, SuperSport and beIN Sport were among a selection of international broadcasters to acquire the broadcasting rights of the 2022 WAFCON. These deals ensured that the tournament had pan-African availability as well as an extensive reach globally in countries such as the United Kingdom and France. The challenge that lies ahead is whether CAF is able to consistently secure a similar level of investment in the broadcasting rights of other women’s football competitions including the CAFWCL and domestic competitions throughout the continent.
A 2022 Nielsen study revealed that unbundled sponsorship investment in women’s sport went up by 146% in 2021.30 The exact structure of the packaging of the rights to the CAFWCL and WAFCON – including the categorisation thereof – is unclear. Nevertheless, the most sustainable approach for the long-term commercial value and growth of African women’s football’s television rights is to ensure that these rights and connected commercial properties are unbundled (in other words, separately packaged from the men’s competitions). This strategy appears to be a global best practice and as such CAF’s premium women’s football properties can extract maximum value and data from this approach.
This paper examined how African women’s football can be transformed into a globally competitive sector within the growing international women’s football landscape, with the CAF Women's football plan 2020-2023 serving as the framework for change.
From examining the international landscape of women’s football with a particular focus on England, the authors found that broadcasting deals and awareness of women’s football competitions have significantly increased. Moreover, the commercial value of women's football and individual players has risen, with many more global brands reaffirming their commitment through ground-breaking, long-term sponsorship and endorsement deals.
Relevant stakeholders within the African football ecosystem can leverage the international context of women’s football as a blueprint to ensure the women’s game in Africa follows a similar path to global competitiveness and growth. Some key areas the authors found were:
Providing technical, educational, and financial support to grassroot-level programmes to enhance the development of the next generation of female footballers, as well as to local clubs in order for them to be sufficiently prepared to identify and harness the development of girls interested in football.
Improving the standard of domestic competitions at youth and senior level, which in turn will help improve the quality of continental competitions.
Entering strategic partnerships with brands that are genuinely interested in advancing women’s football in Africa, rather than partnerships based purely on financial investment. Furthermore, these partnerships should be aimed at creating further exposure for women’s football on the continent, particularly by tapping into the quickly emerging digital sports media sector.
Using income from commercial sponsors and partners to aid the growth of the game, such as increasing the prize money available for women’s competitions and increasing players’ and coaches’ remuneration.
Following the success of the 2022 WAFCON, securing a similar level of investment in the broadcasting rights of subsequent continental events and domestic competitions across the continent.
Clarifying the structure of the commercial and broadcasting packaging rights to the CAFWCL and WAFCON competitions and guaranteeing that these rights are unbundled from the men's competitions for long-term commercial gain.
 CAF (2019). CAF Women’s Football Strategy. 6th October City, Egypt: CAF.
 Ibid. 26 Ibid.
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