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Saudi Arabia’s Women’s Football Revolution

Saudi Arabia's Women's Football Revolution

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) has announced a groundbreaking funding initiative and support system for women’s football clubs. This is a significant step forward for women’s football in the Kingdom, and it is sure to have a major impact on the development of the sport.

The funding program will provide vital financial assistance to the Saudi Premier League and Women’s First Division clubs. This will help to ensure that these clubs are able to operate sustainably and to provide the best possible opportunities for their players.

The program also sets four key goals for participating clubs: to enhance club governance and sustainability, to expand competitions and diversify teams, to create job opportunities and develop the workforce, and to cultivate athletes to represent national teams. These goals are ambitious, but they are achievable with the right support.

Under this ambitious program, SAFF will allocate SAR49.9 million to women’s football programs across the country, supporting clubs and players to continue the impressive growth of the women’s game.

The funding program is just one part of SAFF’s long-term strategy to grow interest and inspire participation in women’s football. The Kingdom has made unprecedented investments in grassroots initiatives, player development, coaching, refereeing, and competitions. This investment is starting to pay off, and the progress that has been made in recent years is truly remarkable.

Today, the Premier and First Division leagues feature 30+ clubs and 600+ players representing over 20 nationalities. On an amateur level, almost 50,000 schoolgirls took part in the inaugural schools’ league across 4,700 teams. Off the pitch, over 49 female referees are officially registered and officiating league matches, with the first Saudi female referee – Anoud Al Asmari – breaking into FIFA’s prestigious licensed list. There are 1,080 additionally licensed coaches playing a significant role in nurturing young female talent across clubs, academies, schools, and training centers in different cities across the country.

The launch of the funding program is a major milestone in the development of women’s football in Saudi Arabia. It is a sign of the commitment that SAFF has to growing the sport and providing opportunities for women to participate. This is a revolution, and it is only just beginning.

Lamia Bahaian, the newly elected Vice President of SAFF, said: “Today’s announcement is another monumental step for SAFF in our unwavering dedication to developing and sustaining a thriving women’s football presence in the Kingdom. We aim to inspire young girls that a career in football is not only feasible for them but promising. Women and girls are central to everything we do in sport, ensuring that we provide equal access to facilities, opportunities, and careers both on and off the pitch. This is made possible thanks to the tremendous support received from SAFF’s management.”

She added: “A key motivation behind this program has stemmed from witnessing an incredible 30% growth in women’s football clubs and players across Saudi Arabia, not just the major cities, over the past year. The interest potential of women’s football is vast and we want to ensure we’re doing everything we can to support and sustain this growth.”

The program sets four key goals for participating clubs:

  1. Enhance club governance and sustainability through improved structure and strategy, in addition to financial and operational monitoring.
  2. Expand competitions and diversify teams to include an U-17 team and women’s futsal senior team.
  3. Create job opportunities and develop the workforce by appointing Saudi female coaches within the technical staff, and recruiting women in the administrative, technical, and medical positions.
  4. Cultivate athletes to represent national teams by signing professional contracts with Saudi female players and nurturing their development from the grassroots level to the senior team.

Mirroring much of the transformation happening across all areas in Saudi Arabia, the strong women’s football movement embodies SAFF’s long-term strategy and commitment to grow interest and inspire participation at all levels of women’s football. The Kingdom has made unprecedented investments in grassroots initiatives, player development, coaching, refereeing, and competitions, fueling much of the progress seen today.

In alignment with the Saudi Vision 2023, women’s sports in the Kingdom have made remarkable progress, with over 190,000 females now actively participating in sports each week. Women’s football, in particular, has witnessed substantial advancements, including the establishment of a dedicated women’s football department in 2019, the creation of a national women’s team, and the launch of the SAFF Women’s Premier League.

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