The current football revolution has been happening in the last three years, primarily associated with the women’s game, and especially after the significant boost that meant the massive success of the World Cup of France 2019. It’s carried out by empowered women who have achieved a prominent position within the industry, fighting for much of their lives against prejudice and discrimination exercised by male dominance in the sport.
It’s not just the players. They are also lawyers, businesswomen, investors, agents, journalists, executives, directors, referees, trainers, influencers, etc., who seek equality to be allowed to do their work in peace, freedom, and trust. To be given opportunities for their talents, abilities, and experience without filling quotas or being a priori criticized, attacked, or discriminated against just for not having been born as men. To be allowed to sit at any table where decisions are made and be listened to, respected and taken seriously, without interruptions from male peers who don’t see them as valid interlocutors.
It’s happening worldwide, at different rates and stages, and it’s not going to stop. Because the men who still fill most decision-making positions will not do anything out of their own initiative. They will only react under social pressure or from the same women who are fighting for their place in the industry or forced by the regulations of the confederations that require them to open more spaces for women, both in clubs and in associations.
Proportionally, there are still few true male allies taking action from their positions of power with the conviction that giving women opportunities to achieve equality in all areas of football is a win-win situation.
Therefore, what happened on Wednesday, March 30, at a sold-out Camp Nou, with a new world attendance record at a women’s football match with 91,533 fans, is exciting and moving but not surprising. It is a natural product of the sustained growth that the game has had, accelerated by the activism and pressure exerted by the women in the industry, especially the players.
In this context, various football female leaders are emerging globally, breaking down doors and shattering glass ceilings, both for their own progress and for those who follow them.
One of them is Victoire Cogevina Reynal, an American-Argentine businesswoman who is also an ambassador for UN Women in defense of gender equality. Victoire is the founder and CEO of Gloria Football, an application that was created at first to facilitate the football talent scouting process and has now evolved into a digital platform in which fans from all over the world can find their community and share or consume football content according to their interests.
Gloria invited a group of prominent women involved in various areas of football to a box at the Camp Nou to witness the historic world-record-breaking UWCL night with El Clásico between Barcelona and Real Madrid. There, I had the opportunity to chat with Victoire about Gloria and her goals with the app:
“The word ‘evolution’ is the best to describe this path that we have with Gloria. We started with players, and during the pandemic, we refocused on fans. Today we are an application that builds a community around football for all fans, women or men. I want Gloria to be the home of online football. When you go to the stadium, you end up hugging total strangers, and we will achieve this with the application.”
For Cogevina, finding the necessary support to launch her project was not immediate or easy. Still, along the way, she crossed paths, among other investors, with Alexis Ohanian, a man who has become an undisputed ally of women in sports and other areas where the female presence is underrepresented. Ohanian, one of the founders of Reddit and husband of Serena Williams, invested in Gloria, giving Victoire the chance to start realizing her vision.
Since then, both the app and its creator have gradually positioned themselves as disruptors in the football scene: Gloria, building a community, and Victoire, advocating for football to be an equitable sport without gender distinctions.
“At Gloria, we always seek inclusion. That means that we cover everything without discriminating. We make no difference between genders. Gloria is not a place just for women’s football or female football fans. As an entrepreneur, I see the business of women’s football as a neglected market that presents a lot of growth opportunities, and we have to do the right thing. I always say that you have to be on the right side of history, supporting women’s football.”
At that exact moment of our conversation, during the game, Victoire —or Vicky, as her friends call her— was also on the eve of perhaps Gloria‘s most significant announcement since its birth.
The next day, at Juno House -a new and spectacular place in Barcelona created by women for women- Victoire broke the big news: Gloria pledged to invest €10,000,000.- to acquire the naming rights of the new professional league of women’s football in Spain.
“Today in Spain, a new women’s professional league is being created with an immense future and potential. Gloria will accompany this path to power the efforts,” said the businesswoman about this leap for her company.
Gloria‘s pledge is committed to the pre-candidacy of lawyers María Teixidor and Reyes Bellver for the presidency of this new league. Teixidor was on the board of FC Barcelona, and Bellver has an outstanding career as a sports lawyer. Both have created a powerful management and investment project for this new competition stage, called “Es el Momento. Compromiso y Ambición” (It’s The Moment. Commitment and Ambition)
Teixidor and Bellver also have the financial support of Assia Grazioli Venier, an Italian investor who funds Gloria and is also a shareholder of the Washington Spirit women’s football team in the US. Through her Muse Capital fund, Grazioli Venier secured €40,000,000.- to finance the league development plans envisioned by the two lawyers.
Although Victoire had been considering it for some time, the completion of this investment pledge to acquire the league’s naming rights was made just a day before the announcement, amid meetings and calls at her hotel to guarantee the funds and make the deal official.
“This project is aligned with Gloria‘s values, objectives and launching moment. However, for the growth of professional football to materialize, it is essential to give it financial support. Being official sponsors of this new league would be the most effective way to help this project come to fruition”, stated Cogevina.
Still, everything depends on Teixidor and Bellver’s candidacy having the support of at least four clubs in the women’s league to compete in the next elections, for which there is still no set date. Then, if they manage to consolidate that support, they must win the elections.
Although Victoire pledged her support through the project of the two lawyers, if another candidacy wins the elections, she is open to maintaining her investment offer as long as the winning project offers guarantees of integrity, professionalism and good planning.
Regardless of the final result, the best of all in Barcelona was seeing a group of powerful women uplifting other women to continue breaking boundaries in the football industry. Women like María and Reyes who dare and try despite having the system against them because if they don’t, then who or when. Women like Victoire who take concrete action to make her vision, and that of others, a reality.
As Assia Grazioli Venier told me when we said goodbye after the meeting at Juno House, this is not about competing but multiplying the power of women to build the football we want through collaboration and mutual support. “We can only rise by lifting others,” says a famous phrase. Perhaps only in this way will football cease to be “masculine” or “feminine”, and one fine day we will be able to call it only “football”.