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Barcelona women’s team is the best women’s team in Spain.

I grew up watching Barcelona on TV and never imagined that I would be at the Camp Nou.

They are also the best women’s team in Europe. They have the world’s top players, the game’s most expensive signing and the highest earnings in Europe.

This is a revolution. This is a social revolution.

So, how did they do it, and can Barcelona help the Spanish women’s football take off?

If we invest, we will definitely be in the top league because we have everything.

Few people know her story better than the captain of the Barcelona women’s team. A Spain international, she spent a decade with the club before turning professional, long before it conquered European football. Barça’s success has also helped it bring in international superstars, including the most expensive transfer fee ever paid by women’s football.

Keira Walsh, midfielder.

Walsh was part of England’s Euro 2022-winning squad, helping women’s football enter the mainstream. Since then, England’s Women’s Premier League attendance has exploded. But the lure of playing for one of football’s most famous clubs proved to be enough to lure her to Spain.

Yes, I think when a club like Barcelona comes to you, it’s very difficult to say no. I think after the Euros, you know, how successful the England team was, I thought, yeah, that happened after that. Yes, I was so excited when I got the call and talked about it with my family. Yes, I take it for granted for all of us to be here.

So when you come here, you get the vibe and the training in terms of competitiveness and hunger to win, I just think they put in more effort to make sure the women’s team is in the best position to win. It’s a football culture. It’s not just about the men’s and women’s teams. They just love football and you can really feel that when I’m in the bus parade and you see people wearing Alexia’s shirts and Aitana’s shirts over the shirts of the men’s players. For me, you know, as women’s football grows, it’s a very important thing.

The Barcelona women’s team has deep roots. Early competitions began as far back as the 1970s and the team was fully integrated into the Sporting Group Barcelona in 2002. But it wasn’t until 2015 that the club turned professional, at the same level as other sports in the Barcelona empire, such as basketball and handball.

Since then, growth has accelerated as women’s sports have flourished more broadly. The team’s 6,000-seat stadium on the outskirts of the city is usually sold out, with a growing number of matches taking place at the iconic Camp Nou, including a record attendance for the women’s match against Wolfsburg in 2022. has been at the heart of driving change.

Markel Zubizarreta, Sporting Director of FC Barcelona Women’s Team.

Markle is the son of legendary Spanish goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta and has played for the Barcelona women’s team since it became professional. His mission is to improve everything from player training to talent scouting.

I joined the club in 2015 and there were maybe 300 fans on the pitch for the first game. We play on the lawn of the training center. Maybe the boys – the Under-16s – liked us more on the pitch. So from then on, we’ve done a lot of things, with goals every year, trying to increase little by little and knowing that our… we’re building a project within the club that has a legacy in football. Now our club has another professional section. We want to be one of the top teams in the world and we will invest in that.

The club also hopes to build a talent pipeline like the men’s team. At La Masia, the club’s storied youth academy, female footballers now live on-site and gain the same experience as the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Pep Guardiola . A former student here, Alexia Putellas, went on to become a top player in women’s football, winning the Ballon d’Or twice. Mike Puig is responsible for the day-to-day operations of La Masia College, which currently has over 100 full-time students living on campus. Thirteen of them are girls and young women hoping to break into the first team at Barça, following the path traveled by some of the biggest names in global football.

Our players range in age from 11 to 21, 22. They come here expecting to get into the best colleges in the world. Therefore, it is our responsibility to maintain these high expectations. Our girls, when they’re young, they often play against boys in games because we want them to play hard and grow up as quickly as possible.

Success on the pitch brings financial gains. Ticket sales for a major game at Camp Nou alone can exceed 1 million euros. In 2022, Barca Femeni will earn close to $8 million, the highest in Europe. But those figures represent a small fraction of what men’s teams earn, which is why women across football are paid much less than men.

One of the problems facing Barcelona is the lack of competition at home. Spanish women’s league Liga F has just completed its first season as a fully professional competition, falling behind some European rivals. Barcelona have lost one game all season and have lost just three league games in the past four years. Liga F’s lack of danger is a problem and threatens to reduce its appeal to fans, sponsors and broadcasters who will help finance the nascent competition. But the league’s chiefs are optimistic that change is afoot, as money goes into women’s football and more clubs start to see it as a business opportunity.

This is also the problem facing men’s football. I think we’ve seen six Premier League cities in the last seven. Or in Spain, it’s usually Real Madrid or Barcelona, ​​and that’s it.

So this difference is difficult to narrow. But we’re looking at the income or income of the club. to grow. With growth, they can invest in better players. What was a networking opportunity a few years ago is now a business opportunity.

Much of what’s happening in Barcelona and the F-League will be familiar to anyone involved in women’s football elsewhere – lack of funding, low levels of competition and low interest from commercial partners have long held back the sport. But change is happening.

Karen Carney, former footballer, National Women’s Soccer Future Review Chair.

Carney, the former England international, was appointed to the FA’s wide-ranging scrutiny of football. Many of her discoveries have lessons that can be applied around the world.

I think women’s football, I wouldn’t say it’s just getting started because it’s been around for a while. But I would say it’s still early days in its journey. I say this all the time. I still think of it as a startup.

We must professionalize the environment. Must be elite. Once everything is in place, the product can really grow.

Like I said, once these women have the right facilities, get paid fairly, and get the opportunity, then they can play better. The race will be faster, faster and stronger. Then the audience becomes more involved.

Once we find a better broadcast slot, we’ll be able to watch it on TV more easily. Then the sponsors will come back, and then we’ll see the virtuous cycle come back. But we need an infusion of cash.

But such taboos still exist around women’s sport and women’s football. Oh, there is a price to pay. There is a price to pay.

Well, that’s all. But I tell you. You will get it back. That’s what needs to be done. The year is 2023.

Barcelona’s experience shows that women’s football has a large and growing audience. Many of them may be completely new to the sport. Building a successful business out of it takes investment, willpower, and most importantly, patience.

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