By 90Min
June 08, 2019

The 2019 Women's World Cup marks the glorious crescendo of years of sacrifice, grit, sweat, blood and tears for the women representing the 24 qualified nations in France.

For Nike, it's another colossal step in the right direction as the women's game continues to soar to new heights. One need only think back to March of this year, when a crowd of 60,739 packed the Wanda Metropolitano to watch Atletico Madrid take on Barcelona - a record for a women's league game. 

And with the World Cup underway, Bert Hoyt, Nike's VP & GM of Western Europe, knows that the tournament presents a unique opportunity to unlock participation in women's football around the globe.

"We're seeing strong growth in women's football - it's one of the fastest-growing team sports for young women across the world," Hoyt exclusively told 90min.

"Women's participation in sport is lagging behind men's, and therefore this [the World Cup] can be a catalyst for change."

In the build-up to the World Cup, you likely caught one of Nike's many advertisements encouraging young women to 'dream further' as they watch the stars take to the pitch.

"The campaign was targeted at young girls that are passionate not only about football, but sport in general, and providing them with the opportunity that one day their dreams can come true - whether it's to compete on the biggest stages in their sports careers, or to actually get out and start to play and participate in sport in general," Hoyt adds. 

Whilst there has been incredible growth in women's participation in football in nations such as France, the UK, USA and Japan, other nations, such as Poland and Belgium, are still some way behind. So, does Nike have a strategy to help increase those numbers in other countries?

"We focus our strategy right now on five key cities in EMEA (London, Paris, Berlin, Milan and Barcelona) as well as two cities in Europe we focus on - Moscow and Istanbul," says Hoyt. "We believe we need to get the recipe right in those markets first before we can extend that to other markets. 


"It's not just about putting an ad together, its much more about taking things down to the grassroots level. We have numerous partners throughout Europe we work with and we positively impact 150,000 girls across 10 countries. 

"So we hope with those programs, we hope we're able to get to Belgium and Poland one day, but the first half is to really tackle the key cities and make a sustainable effort to supporting the grassroots efforts for young girls to play football."

Whilst these numbers are positive and continue to grow, Hoyt admits that there are still challenges to increasing participation in grassroots girl's football.

"The biggest challenge is access - access to facilities. Even when there are facilities, the young men and the boys tend to dominate the facility."

Whilst that might be the case currently, the World Cup can, to borrow a phrase from Hoyt, serve as a catalyst for change in areas where access and participation for women's football is currently lacking. And who knows? Perhaps those young boys will turn on their TV this summer to watch and be amazed (and surprised) by the skill of the players on show, and become agents of change in their communities. 

If they're smart, they'll tune in, because one thing's for sure - this is a World Cup you won't want to miss.

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