” It’s catastrophic. “ Brigitte Henriques does not procrastinate. “But it’s no more complicated for women’s sport than for sport in general, and society as a whole”, immediately qualifies the vice-president of the French Football Federation in charge of the development of women’s practice. Lucid, but fighter, as always.
→ INVESTIGATION. The enthusiasm for home sports quickly waned
The health crisis affects the leader, but not her will. “The closed door is actually terrible for the clubs, who have to deal with a lack of revenue, visibility, and a situation that is far from being improved, she continues. We are in the hard. The course of action is the same for everyone: stick together and hold on. “
Much more worry than after the first confinement
The speech is much less serene than the day after the first confinement, when most leaders of women’s sport oscillated between worry and hope, refusing in any case the label of major collateral victim of the pandemic.
“The clubs could then benefit from partial unemployment, and this help proved to be essential to ensure their survival.says former international Yannick Souvré, director of the Women’s Basketball League. So much so that at the end of the season, the financial balance was maintained almost everywhere. The recovery was shaping up well with partners who usually remained loyal. But the re-containment and this never-ending crisis are obviously a game-changer. “
→ ANALYSIS. The growth crisis in women’s football
The ground has not yet completely slipped away, to the point of engulfing the clubs within three months. “But the start of the 2021 school year will clearly be much more difficult than the previous one, underlines Nodjialem Myaro, president of the Women’s Handball League. We fear in particular that the good momentum of our championship is broken. For three years, the level has been rising and foreign players no longer hesitate to join our clubs. What if they are forced to reduce the payroll? In France, we take care of the good management of our clubs. This is not the case everywhere in Europe, and others could offer attractive contracts and cause a talent drain. “
Good news is scarce at the start of the year. The compensation fund for ticket office losses, set at 4 million euros for the men’s and women’s clubs of the “BHV” (basketball, handball, volleyball), at 48 million euros for football and at 40 million euros for rugby, must be paid in early February. “These sums are in our case calculated from the declarations of the clubs, and as we do not have a crazy crowd in some of our rooms, this does not represent huge amounts, explains Yannick Souvré. But in the current context, it’s obviously better than nothing. “
A “female group” to move forward together
The clubs are not content to suffer and wait for help, however. “They have made real efforts to improve the capture of images during our broadcasts on LFB TV (Women’s Basketball League TV, Editor’s note), on YouTube, and we now offer an interesting product also for partners, says Yannick Souvré. This shows that in the future, the place of digital to show our disciplines will be more and more important. We will certainly have strategies to rethink in relation to broadcasting on television rights. “
Learning from the crisis, and not losing all ability to project, is also what the leaders of women’s team sports apply to. In December 2020, within the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (Cnosf), representatives of seven federations (with the addition of rugby, ice hockey and water polo for swimming) formed a “women’s group” under the leadership of Brigitte Henriques and Jean-Pierre Siutat, President of the French Basketball Federation. Goal : “Push the public authorities to help us and be in a position to aim for the Olympic podium in 2024”, poses Brigitte Henriques.
Governance, performance and finance will be discussed in three dedicated working groups, which will reflect on the status of players as well as the tax advantages to be released to motivate investment in women’s sport. “The Covid has been an accelerator to finally work together and no longer each in its own corridor”, welcomes Nodjialem Myaro. “It’s a huge step forward, applauds Yannick Souvré. We are going to work on a typically feminine product, which does not try to ape men’s sport. And we are going to wear it no longer just between ourselves, but also with men by our side. It’s a first “. And a little ray of sunshine that still lights up the endless tunnel.
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More and more women leaders
It was also one of the struggles of women’s sport: to succeed in feminizing the governing bodies largely dominated by these gentlemen. Things are progressing, as demonstrated by the recent election of Carole Force to the presidency of the Women’s Basketball League (LFB). The former international is the first woman to hold this post since the creation of the LFB in 1998. But feminization is also progressing in the territorial committees. The proportion of women has risen from 8% in 2012 to 19% today in football league committees, and from 11% to 17% in district committees. The goal is to reach 25% by 2024.