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Karen Carney appoints expert panel to support major review of women's football, launched by UK Government

Next step in ongoing review of domestic women’s football, launched in September 2022, examining issues affecting the game at elite and grassroots level

  • Former professional footballer turned pundit Ian Wright and former Lionesses head coach Hope Powell to advise Carney on next stage of review
  • Wider group of sports executives including from the NFL will offer advice in areas such as commercial and grassroots participation
  • Carney yesterday met with Chelsea women’s head coach Emma Hayes at Kingsmeadow Stadium

Football pundit and former professional footballer Ian Wright and former Lionesses head coach Hope Powell will advise a review looking at ways to boost participation  and strengthen the commercial standing of women’s football in the UK.

Representatives from the NFL, the Women in Football group, sports business administrators and campaigners have also been appointed by review chair Karen Carney.

Carney, a former England and Great Britain footballer, was commissioned by the UK government to look at the state of the women’s professional game, from the grassroots to the elite level, following a recommendation in the fan-led review of football governance.

Carney has spent the last six months gathering evidence and today’s appointment of a panel of football and commercial experts will help shape the recommendations her review will make to the government. The review is expected to be published in the summer.

The women’s game has made significant progress in recent years, with UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 highlighting the changing attitudes to women’s sport. Records were shattered: there was a record global audience of more than 365 million people, almost 575,000 tickets were sold, with nearly half of ticket holders female and almost 100,000 children. There were sell-out crowds wherever the Lionesses played, and the final broke the all-time record attendance for a EUROs final - in either the men’s or women’s game.

Carney announced the panel as she met with Chelsea FC Women head coach Emma Hayes at Kingsmeadow Stadium to discuss the review’s progress, early findings and get her views on the state of the domestic game.

Ian Wright has become a highly respected voice on the state of the women’s game while Hope Powell was the first black and first female head coach of an England national team. She was also head coach at Brighton & Hove Albion Women’s Football Club.

Other appointees include Jane Purdon, chair of the Professional Game Academy Audit Company and director of the Women in Football group. She is a former director of governance at the Premier League and co-authored the Code for Sports Governance in 2016.

Brett Gosper, head of Europe and UK for the National Football League (NFL) and a former CEO of World Rugby, will advise on how to improve the fan experience. Dan Jones, a former global lead partner for sports business at Deloitte, will examine the commercial and financial model of the women’s professional club game.

Lisa O’Keefe is the secretary general of the International Working Group on Women and Sport. A former director of insight at Sport England, O’Keefe helped deliver the widely acclaimed ‘This Girl Can’ campaign which has successfully persuaded nearly four million women to get active since its launch in 2015. She will look at how to improve grassroots participation.

Chair of the review of domestic women’s football Karen Carney MBE said:

For this review, it was important to me to get the advice and support of experts across various fields, from sport to business. So I’m really pleased that Hope, Ian, Jane, Brett, Dan and Lisa have come on board.

Their experience, expertise and understanding of the world of sport will be incredibly valuable as we set out our recommendations for the growth of the game. Best of all, I know they share my ambition to make the UK one of the best places in the world to play, watch and invest in women’s football.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:

There has been a huge surge in interest in women’s football over the past year and now is the time to supercharge the game’s growth.

Karen has chosen a range of experts from different fields to help make sure her review can really revolutionise the game, from the grassroots to the elite level, and do so in a positive and sustainable way.

This panel will bring valuable knowledge to help boost the commercial side of the sport while improving participation.

The review, launched in September 2022, has a particular focus on:

  1. Assessing the potential audience reach and growth of the game - by considering the value and visibility of women’s and girls’ football in England, including the potential to grow the fanbase for women’s football and whether current growth can be achieved without overstretching infrastructure.

  2. Examining the financial health of the game and its financial sustainability for the long term. This will include exploring opportunities and ways to support the commercialisation of the women’s game, broadcast revenue opportunities and the sponsorship of women’s football.

  3. Examining the structures within women’s football. This includes the affiliation with men’s teams, prize money, the need for women’s football to adhere to the administrative requirements of the men’s game; and assessing the adequacy, quality, accessibility and prevalence of the facilities available for women’s and girls’ football for the growth and sustainability of the game.

Since the launch of the review, Carney has asked for written evidence from a range of stakeholders from across the women’s game and met people from across the women’s football community.

This includes the technical staff and players at several Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship clubs, former players, the football authorities and representatives from other organisations to discuss the issues facing the game’s development.

She has also met with financial and commercial experts, alongside major broadcasters and sponsors to discuss the game’s financial health and broadcast rights.

Notes to editors:

  • The terms of reference for the review of domestic women’s football are here.

  • The fan-led review of football governance for men’s professional footballrecommended a review of the women’s game. Those who gave evidence highlighted the need for women’s football to be properly financed - including the commercialisation of women’s football, the opportunities for the game to benefit from broadcast revenue and implementing a stronger administrative structure. The Government’s full response can be found here.

  • During her career, Karen Carney achieved 144 caps for England and represented Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games. She enjoyed a club career for Arsenal, Chicago Red Stars, Birmingham City and Chelsea. She is now a respected voice on both mens and women’s football and works as a broadcaster and columnist for the Guardian, ITV Sport and Sky Sports, as well as her role as a sponsorship consultant for Visa.

  • As a professional footballer, Ian Wright was capped 33 times for England. He played the majority of his career for Crystal Palace and Arsenal. Since his retirement he has become a respected pundit on men’s and women’s football.

  • Hope Powell was capped 66 times for England. In 1998 she became the first black and first female Head Coach of an England national team, and carried out the role for 15 years, with responsibility for all age groups from the under 15s to the senior team. She played a major role in establishing and running the FA’s National Player Development Centre at Loughborough University in 2001, where Carney was a graduate..

  • Jane Purdon remains on the board of directors at Women in Football. She is a former head of governance and leadership at UK Sport, and oversaw the creation of the Code for Sports Governance. She worked in the Premier League as director of governance and began her career in football as club secretary at Sunderland FC.

  • Karen Carney is being supported in the evidence gathering and analysis by senior officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the FA.

  • The launch of the Women’s Super League in 2011 generated a wave of bespoke sponsorship and broadcast rights deals, and the England men’s and women’s senior players are now being paid the same match fee for representing their country.

  • At grassroots level football has become the most played team sport for women and girls in England, with three million registered players and 12,000 registered teams. The Government is in the process of delivering its biggest ever investment into delivering equal access for women and girls to play football, with £300 million being used to build or improve thousands of grassroots football and multi-sport facilities across the UK by 2025.

  • On 10 February former Lioness Jill Scott opened the first of 23 new grassroots football facilities that the Government have announced will be named after the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 winning squad, in honour of their achievements. The facilities will be located in and around each of their respective hometowns or places that shaped their footballing careers.

Additional quotes:

Ian Wright MBE said:

We have such an amazing opportunity to ensure what Karen, Kelly Smith, Hope Powell and the generation of women and girls including our Euros winners went through never happens again. We can build this right from the bottom to the very top. Football gave me everything and should be for everyone. So I’m here to play my part, give my experience, my insights, my platform, and ultimately make sure that something tangible comes of this. Karen knows I’m ready to go.

Hope Powell CBE said:

I am delighted to be part of the DCMS review panel of experts for women’s football, chaired by Karen. It gives us the opportunity to check, challenge and discuss the progression of women’s football, and share our opinions and recommendations that we hope will be considered to further progress the game in this country.

Jane Purdon said:

I’m delighted to be working with Karen. We have an incredible opportunity to grow the women’s game. That’s why it is fantastic that the review is going to do a deep dive into all the big issues we need to resolve in order to take our game forwards. I’ve worked in football for 20 years - for a Premier League club, for the Premier League itself, and most recently as the CEO of Women in Football. Throughout I’ve had a focus on governance issues and the role of women in our national game. That’s the expertise I’ll be bringing to the review.

Brett Gosper said:

I’m honoured to be asked to join this expert panel to support this major review of women’s football. The idea behind this is to maximise the commercial opportunities for the women’s game and ensure there is maximum participation at grassroots level. At the NFL we are obsessed with the fans’ journey and tracking through every bit of data and analytics we have on how we can enhance that journey. This is what I can add to this debate, to ensure that the women’s game is being optimised to ensure it is getting total value and parity with the men’s game at some point in the very near future.

Dan Jones said:

I’m a passionate supporter of women’s football from grassroots club to international level. I’m delighted to be working with Karen to try and put the right strategies and structures in place financially and commercially to give women’s football the best chance to reach its full potential.

Lisa O’Keefe said:

From grassroots right through to elite level, the growth of football for women and girls in this country is providing a magnificent opportunity to increase sporting opportunities at every level.  All these foundations need to be built on sustainably and it is hugely exciting to be part of such an expert review team to help ensure we can do that.

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