FEED Issue 26 Web


FEED: How did you get from being on the football pitch to working on bringing the game to the wider world? BEX SMITH: I was born in LA to Kiwi parents from Christchurch. We grew up in both countries and then I went to college on the east coast at Duke. When I was playing soccer in college, I got picked up by the New Zealand national team for World qualifiers in 2003. I had never really wanted to be a professional footballer, but I enjoyed that opportunity. They made me captain of the team in my debut match, which was crazy. I was going to quit soccer, but Australia left the Oceania Football Confederation, which meant New Zealand had a direct qualification into the World Cup and Olympics, so I thought, I'm technically captain of a national team that could go and play in a World Cup and maybe even the Olympics, and it felt really crazy not to try it. I played in Frankfurt at FFC Frankfurt, which was at the time the best team in Europe. I didn’t know that at the time, because there were no agents or anything like that for women players. I was on the internet Googling anything I could find, sending out emails and asking for a try-out. From there, I went to Sweden, then played in Newcastle and Australia and then went back to Germany. Then I had to retire because my knee was really bad. I couldn't

and brand name – I mean, who has a bigger brand name than FIFA? – I think that they could do so much more. By the end I saw way too much politics and other things that I couldn’t put my name to. I’m just not a politician. Having said that, it is still the biggest moment in women’s football and last summer was incredible. There are still really good parts of it. I wish that they would double down on those great parts of the women’s game. I hope that they do the right thing and actually put their money where their mouth is when it comes to the women’s game. FEED: What have been some of the barriers in building up women’s football? BEX SMITH: One of the biggest barriers in terms of growth and investment was a lack of it being a great brand. The story of the players wasn’t out there. All of the storytelling and the messaging around women's football was, you should get involved because it’s good for girls and gender equality and so on. Which is a great thing; but the game is also about incredible athletes with phenomenal stories. And the sport itself is worth watching – tough quality, good pace, good technique and tactics. The product was good and the players are incredible. But there was a need to get the right storytelling.

play any more, even run any more to be fair. So when I was looking at what to do next, I got approached by FIFA to come and run their women’s tournaments. INTERNALLY YOU NEED THE COMPANY TO UNDERSTAND AND REALLY LIVE BY THAT CULTURE BEX SMITH: I was at FIFA for four and a half years, organising the women′s football – the Under 17, under 20 and Women’s World Cup. In the last year I was there I did more strategic planning. What kind of competitions do we need? What does an international match calendar look like? And how do we use the tools at FIFA to grow the women’s game globally? But I got tired of governance and politics and wanted to try something new. FIFA didn’t have the same values as I did. I think there it was a lot more to do with politics and power and money. With the resources FEED: What was it like at FIFA?

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