On 28 and 29 July 2022, 90min and Minute Media attended Equal Playing Field’s Equality Summit.
A selection of influential people in the game descended upon Kings College London to discuss an assortment of issues via round tables, breakout rooms and panels – from how to make women’s football sustainable to the importance of male allies.
The event kicked off with England great Kelly Smith in conversation with former Australian international and lawyer Moya Dodd. The pair discussed Smith’s glittering career – from her iconic boot kissing celebration at the 2007 World Cup, to dealing with online trolls while doing punditry.
“I’m here at the Equality Summit because I believe in equality in football,” Dodd told 90min. “It’s a long journey to equality, and I hope the summit’s legacy will be a substantial step forward. I think problems are only solved when people come together to talk about them, that’s when progress happens.
“We have a great way of crowd sourcing solutions in the women’s football community, and it’s really important to get people together to talk about issues that might be difficult, that might be confronting but they have to be solved to get to where we all want to be.”
One of the most moving talks of the event saw The Guardian’s Suzy Wrack sit down with Khalida Popal, founder of the Afghanistan women’s football team, and Sarah Gregorious, Director of Global Policy & Strategic Relations at FifaPro. The trio talked through the battles fought off the pitch by the Afghan national team, the wider implications this has for safeguarding in the game, and the evacuation mission undertaken to get members of the Afghanistan women’s national team to safety after the Taliban took control of the country.
“Our female footballers were not only activists, but in Afghanistan we use football as a tool for activism and inclusion of women, and that’s why their lives were in danger; because of playing the game and because of their activism through football,” Popal told 90min. “So we had to jump and act and help them to safe places.
“They are receiving great support from the football family. I really liked the great support they are feeling, where it feels like home already. I feel so happy and proud how the football community stepped up and helped them.”
Two days of important conversations were rounded off by a rousing keynote speech from former Australian international Alicia Ferguson, getting attendees hyped for the 2023 World Cup and future of women’s football.
“It’s a fantastic summit, many great people that I know and am inspired by their great work,” added Popal. “The summit is important because it is the time, it’s the conversation about inclusion, about protection, about safety about equal pay, equal treatment, equity. But also about awareness and support around the game.”
“The equality summit is about stretching your imagination, about thinking: ‘what should it look like?'” Dodd concluded. “And then working out some concrete steps we can all take to take it there.”