Stronger Together

Women's football summit was a huge success

Friday 22 March 2024 18:00

There was plenty to be celebrated at Manchester United’s 2024 International Women’s Day Football Summit, centred around the theme of ‘Stronger Together’.

Over 150 guests from a variety of football and business backgrounds gathered at Old Trafford to discuss and blueprint the future of the women’s game with fan culture, youth, and commercial investment high on the agenda.

The day kicked off with a discussion between Polly Bancroft, Head of Women’s Football at Manchester United, and Nikki Doucet, the chair of NewCo (the organisation tasked with running the women’s football league, when it separates from the FA for the 2024/25 season).

Chloe Morgan, Women’s Football Editor at The Athletic, hosted the discussion and deftly created space for the two women to share their hopes for the next ten years. Both see a future for the game which features strong collaboration between clubs and the league, and where we ensure to value each other’s voices. In addition, both were resolute in the need to offer space for every fan and create more focused partnerships that harness the unique power of women’s football and the individual characters in the league.

Galton: Events like this show growth Video

Galton: Events like this show growth

Leah Galton and her partner Sheridan Douglas discuss the women's football summit at Old Trafford...

As the league becomes a stand-alone unit, with dedicated and passionate individuals urging its growth, the aim is that it will become the most “distinctive, competitive and entertaining” home to the best talent from around the world, with more female coaches and female referees too. In Nikki’s words, “Yes, it’s big and there’s a lot to do – but it’s going to happen.”

Polly reflected on how much fantastic work had already been achieved, highlighting the female-specific health research and policy going on at Manchester United. A recent updated maternity policy and a collaborative project with adidas to create more suitable sports bras are just a couple of the things going on behind the scenes.

These sentiments were echoed later in the day by United winger Leah Galton, who took part in a conversation with her partner, Sheridan Douglas, and Al Greenwood from the INMOTION Collective. The three women, who all went to school together, discussed the professionalisation of the game over the past few years and how excited they are for the next generation to take the game even further, directing their attention to United academy graduates Safia Middleton-Patel and Jess Simpson, who were sat in the audience.

Throughout the day, attendees were able to take part in lightning talks, sharing ideas across a wide range of topics and gleaning insights from experts in the women’s game.

The event offered a celebration of all that had been achieved in women’s football over the past years, whilst also looking towards the future and acknowledging all the strides still to be made. As the realisation of all the opportunities and progress that the future presents sunk in, there was a sense of excitement too as guests came together to think of the ways they might be able to play a part in it.

As Morgan said in her closing remarks, if the day was anything to go by, "The future of women’s football really is bright."