Developing women’s football is still one of the main focuses for many countries in Europe, no more so than in the Netherlands, where six leading clubs – ADO Den Haag, AZ Alkmaar, Heerenveen, Twente Enschede, Utrecht and Willem II – recently committed themselves to an ambitious three-year project by agreeing to launch a women’s top flight in August 2007. The aim of the project is to boost the development and quality of women’s football in the Netherlands to ultimately help the Dutch women’s national team qualify for a European Championship or a World Cup, a feat that has eluded them to date. There will be no relegation from or promotion to the new league, or at least not while it is in its infancy. The players will be amateurs, but they will have all of their expenses reimbursed.
When the Finnish women’s national team reached the semi-finals of the European Championship in 2005, it unleashed a wave of enthusiasm for the game back home, and the media coverage afforded to the Finland players ensured that they become household names in their own right. To capitalize on the development of the game, a licensing system based on financial, sporting, infrastructure and legal criteria was recently introduced for the ten teams in the Finnish women’s league. With the number of women playing football increasing by around 10% each year, women’s football in Finland clearly has a bright future. It does, however, have a number of challenges to overcome in the areas of communication and marketing and in terms of attracting more fans to the game. The Finnish football association will have a key role to play in coordinating and managing the system. The association’s overall vision is of a strong domestic league, a popular women’s national team and a successful European Championship on home soil in 2009, all of which would doubtless help to make women’s football the number one women’s sport in Finland.