France faces Germany in the semi-finals of Euro 2022 this Wednesday: good news for French women’s football, which still suffers from a big delay vis-à-vis men’s football but also its European neighbors.
Just before the 2019 Women’s World Cup, organized in France, Noël Le Graët hoped to take advantage of the enthusiasm to see the number of licensees soar and reach 300,000 (179,000 in 2019). But the president of the FFF was quickly disillusioned, since in June 2022, there were 209,692 licensees (out of 2.1 million in total), including 168,789 players.
Ambitions in number of licensees
A first defeat for “NLG” followed by a new twist of fate, with the appearance of Covid-19, punctuated by two truncated seasons for the amateur championships. But the FFF nevertheless sees the glass half full. The Federation communicates on an increase of “16% compared to last season”. “Never has the FFF recorded so many licensees”, she asserts, highlighting “the feminization plan launched in 2012 by President Noël Le Graët”, which “has made it possible to double the number of girls or women made redundant (less than 90,000 in 2010-2011).”
>>> the live-text of the semi-final of the Euro Germany-France
In the columns of West Francethe president of the FFF recently mentioned a new objective, wanting to reach the symbolic bar of 250,000 licensees in 2024. Compared to the ‘competitors’, France is behind Germany (210,000 licensees in 2021), but ahead of the England (121,000 in 2019) or the Netherlands (162,000 in 2019).
A vision of things that does not necessarily please everyone. A few weeks ago, when the FFF announced that it was applying for the organization of Euro 2025, Ada Hegerberg stepped up to the plate: “Organizing international competitions is good. Investing in our championship is better, dropped the Fenottes player in a message written on Twitter. We are picking up and the CDM 2019 had no impact.”
A big delay in infrastructure
In France, the 12 D1 Arkema training courses do not benefit from the same working conditions. The teams attached to the professional clubs rely on better conditions than the 100% female sections, while two amateur clubs (Issy and Fleury) complete the picture of a non-professional championship.
A difference that stretches to the lower level, as testified by the Yzeure team before his Coupe de France final against PSG. “We have mediocre training conditions. We don’t have the means to have a professional structure that would facilitate recovery. We only have three players under federal contract”, explained Ophélie Meilleroux to RMC Sport.
A statement shared by Sonia Bompastor, the OL coach, at the microphone of RMC Sport. “Where we need to wake up is above all at the level of the federation. I was at the match between Barcelona and Atlético and there is a real cultural difference. On that, we still have a lot of work. We must improve the infrastructure, the stadiums, the conditions of broadcasting on TV, indicates the one who has already won the Women’s Champions League twice as a player. The Federation must move forward on a lot of subjects: training in clubs, youth championships so that they can play in championships that allow them to harden up at the top level. There are several points like that that we have to work on quickly because otherwise we will quickly be overwhelmed and it would be a shame for French women’s football. There is an emergency, I am sounding the alarm.”
The FFF has increased aid and bets on hopeful poles
For his part, Noël Le Graët recalled “that a high-level women’s commission” had been set up “to optimize the competitiveness of the clubs”. “A lot of resources are put into structuring and training. Even if the FFF is not intended to subsidize 100% of the women’s sections of clubs, it has significantly increased its aid. We have allocated additional aid this season of 50,000 € per D1 Arkema club. New funding of the same order is in progress. We have also increased the allocations for the Women’s French Cup.”
In terms of training, the French Federation has set up 100% female hopefuls, as is the case for boys. On the other hand, there is no training center recognized by the State. In the four corners of France, eight structures have emerged (compared to 16 for boys) in Blagnac, Clairefontaine, Liévin, Lyon, Mérignac, Rennes, Strasbourg and Tours. From next season, these centers will enter a new dimension since they will be accessible to young girls U15 (under 15). Only players aged 16 to 18 had access to it until then.
The issue of TV rights
Another thorny question: that concerning TV rights. Holder of the rights to D1 Arkema since 2018-2019, the Canal+ group has signed a long-term five-year contract for a total amount of 6 million euros (1.2 million euros per season). It broadcasts all the matches on its channels (two matches on Canal+ Sport and four on Foot+). “PSG-OL in prime time attract an average of 500,000 viewers. A classic day, without a poster, of D1 Arkema brings together between 50,000 and 100,000 cumulative viewers in 2019″, affirmed Thierry Cheleman, director of sports for the Canal + group. However, TV rights are still relatively modest in France, burdening investment capacities club potential.
This is not the case in England, since Sky Sports and the BBC signed an agreement in 2021, guaranteeing the broadcast of 66 English league matches per season for a record amount of around 7 million pounds (around 8. 1 million euros) per year. Added to this is a sponsorship contract (signed in 2019 by Barclays bank with the Women’s Super League for a sum of more than 11.5 million euros for the next three seasons) which gives English women’s football a good financial surface. superior to that of its French counterpart. The D1 cannot count on the naming Arkema to bail out the coffers, since the sponsor weighs 1.2 million euros per season.
In the stands, success is also slow to be felt. If PSG broke Champions League records for a French team (43,254 people at the Parc des Princes against OL in the semi-finals and 27,000 against Bayern in the previous round), the figure is very far from the absolute record beaten by Barça women, which drew 91,648 fans to the Camp Nou for the game against Wolfsburg. In the league, the record is still held by OL, still against PSG, in November 2019 with 30,661 spectators at Groupama Stadium. Apart from the prestigious posters facing the two leaders of the D1, it is difficult to attract people to the bays.
The disparities are also observed at the level of salaries, where OL and PSG face the rest of the world. Last March, The Team estimated the average gross monthly salary of a player at 12,000 euros at OL and 9,000 euros at PSG, but at 2,000 euros or less for a member of seven of the 12 elite teams. It is important to note that some players have an improved federal contract (there is no professional contract in women’s football, editor’s note), while others have no employment contract and have another activity on the side to meet their needs.
In an attempt to remedy such discrepancies, the general meeting of the FFF has validated the new pyramid of national women’s championships. Forget the hypothesis of a ten-club championship, which did not please many people. If no change is planned for the D1, which remains at 12 clubs (with two runs), the D2 will experience a big change, and not the least. If the second level has so far two pools of 12 teams, there will be a single pool in two years, to create a D3 with two pools of 12 teams.
Next season therefore promises to be very difficult in D2, since the six lowest ranked teams in the two groups (i.e. twelve formations) will be transferred to this future D3 at the end of the 2022-2023 financial year. The tightening of D2 continues, after the reduction of the championship to two groups in 2016. Conversely: twelve clubs from Regional 1 will be promoted to D3 for the 2023-2024 season. The new third division will therefore consist of 24 teams, divided into two groups of twelve. A format that takes up the one currently in force in D2. This third division will be particularly accessible to the reserve teams of D1 clubs and “having an approved training center”.
Once the transitional season has passed, there will be two climbs and descents from the D1 to the D2 and from the D2 to the D3. For the Regional 1 teams who want to reach the third level, it will be necessary to go through a two-round accession phase in order to determine the six teams which will be promoted to D3, like what is currently organized to move from R1 to D2. A semi-final of Les Bleues may not be enough to trigger a big boost. A title, on the other hand, could be…