A team from The PR Office travelled to Lyon last week at the culmination of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
This tournament has been a remarkable celebration of women’s football and has set a new viewing record for women’s football, with FIFA estimating close to 1bn viewers.
The global interest in the tournament was evident from the carnival atmosphere throughout the city and the packed stands in the Stade de Lyon. We were lucky enough to attend both semi-finals and to experience this energy and excitement of the tournament first-hand.
The PR Office team had not just travelled for the World Cup however. We were in Lyon to support the launch of #FearlessFootball, a global campaign to end abuse, harassment and exploitation in women’s football, on behalf of our client AFDP Global.
The campaign and launch had been months in the planning, beginning with a roundtable in London in February, hosted by AFDP Global’s Founder HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and CEO JF Cecillon.
The roundtable was a response to reports from members of the Afghanistan National Women’s Football Team who, at great personal risk to themselves, were exposing a deplorable culture of abuse, harassment and exploitation within women’s football in Afghanistan.
Attended by experts in football and human rights, the roundtable was designed to co-ordinate the support being offered to affected players and staff and to pressure football’s governing bodies to hold the perpetrators accountable. Since then we have seen the President of the Afghanistan Football Federation receive a lifetime ban from football and a 1m Swiss francs fine.
In the knowledge that the situation in Afghanistan is by no means an isolated case, the AFDP Global team also committed themselves to delivering a campaign to address abuse in women’s football globally. The idea behind #FearlessFootball was born – a truly global campaign to prevent all abuse and exploitation by changing the way football is governed.
Our preparations for Lyon began with a process of identifying and reaching out to social media influencers with a shared interest in integrity in football. At the same time, we secured coverage in advance with established media outlets, targeting those publications with a focus on human rights issues. We placed two powerful comment pieces from HRH Prince Ali and from Kelly Lindsey (the current manager of the Afghanistan National Women’s Team) in our two top targets, the Independent and the Guardian, to coincide with the campaign launch.
Laying the groundwork in advance, both in terms of social influencers and traditional media, meant we hit the ground running on launch day. Social posts from the likes of Mia Hamm, Robert Pires and Harry Kewell drove wider interest in the campaign at a media launch packed with international football and human rights journalists. The resulting coverage across digital and traditional media was rapid and consistent.
As the energy of the launch phase starts to subside, the real business of the #FearlessFootball starts now. The #FearlessFootball petition has been launched on Change.org, with supporters from around the world adding their online signatures and calling on football organisations to adopt minimum safeguarding standards to prevent abuse and exploitation.
By continuing to drive engagement through traditional and wider media, we are privileged to be supporting AFDP Global to share this crucial message that, if listened to, has the power to change the culture of football for good. This is only the beginning! #FearlessFootball.