Football Feminism: Global Governance Perspectives

The Symposium

The Jean Monnet Center for International and Regional Economic Law and Justice at NYU School of Law will host a symposium on February 24 – 25, 2020 to explore feminist perspectives on global football (soccer) governance and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

Last year, FIFA launched a Women’s Football Strategy to “empower the organisation to take further concrete steps to address the historic shortfalls in resources and representation, while advocating for a global stand against gender discrimination through playing football.” This plan for institutional reform, along with the 2019 Women’s World Cup, offers an opportune moment to think critically about the future of world football from various feminist perspectives. The Symposium therefore seeks to explore the system of governance that regulates football around the globe through the lens of gender and to consider what it would mean for global football governance to be feminist.

Women and girls have been playing and otherwise participating in organized football since at least the late 19th century, before the 1904 establishment of FIFA as the sole recognized international governing body for the ‘beautiful game’. However, FIFA did not officially hold a Women’s World Cup until 1991 and did not elect a woman to its Executive Committee (as it then was) until 2012. In other words, football under the auspices of FIFA has long been a male-dominated sphere, into which women have only recently begun to gain formal entry – first as athletes and then as executives. The longstanding gendered nature of global football governance is therefore easily perceptible.

The Symposium will aim to illuminate and nuance the relationship between gender and power within the transnational regulatory system that governs football (with FIFA at its helm); to identify specific gendered implications of existing governance structures, rules and procedures; and to consider innovative ideas for feminist reform or revolution. Approaches may be explicitly feminist – of any strand (e.g. radical, intersectional, postcolonial) or theoretical orientation (e.g. historical institutionalism, critical legal theory) – or they may simply use gender as a mode or lens of analysis, including in connection with race, sexuality, nationality, geography, religion, class, etc. The commonality across approaches will be the critical evaluation of a politically, economically and culturally powerful global governance regime from the perspective of gender.

Submissions may address any aspect of the governance of the women’s game, the men’s game or both. Likewise, they may focus on the role of any actor(s) within the global football governance regime (e.g. FIFA and its various internal bodies, regional confederations, national associations, clubs, leagues, host countries, sponsors, broadcasters, players, coaches) or the relations between them. Papers may tackle questions of gender and governance related to, for example:

  • Representation in football executive leadership, coaching and officiating
  • Investment in, promotion of, and opportunities and rewards for women’s teams and players
  • Professionalization, commercialization and corruption of football
  • Public and private influences on global football governance (e.g. national governments, corporations, civil society organizations)
  • Sexual harassment and abuse, gender-based violence and homophobia in football or committed outside football by members of the ‘football family’
  • FIFA development programs or football-related migration
  • Real or potential resolution of gender discrimination claims by FIFA, national or regional courts, the Court of Arbitration for Sport or other (quasi)judicial fora
  • Experiences of fans, journalists and other football stakeholders
  • Repercussions of mega-event hosting and other local impacts of global football
  • Gender-based categorization of football competition
  • Reimagining of women’s (or non-binary) football on its own terms (without/outside FIFA)

In sum, the Symposium will endeavour to take stock of the development of the global football governance regime, to critically evaluate its present state, and to consider potential reforms or reimaginations of the system – all from a variety of feminist or gendered perspectives.

The Symposium will feature presentations by the authors of selected papers, followed by comments from designated panels of experts, including both scholars and practitioners in the field. The Symposium will be open to the public and participation will be welcomed from all in attendance. Following the Symposium, featured papers will be published as described below.

The Submission Process

Both established and early-career legal scholars (including graduate students) are invited to submit proposals to present papers addressing the symposium theme.

Anyone wishing to offer a paper should submit a working title and an abstract of no more than 300 words, along with a one-page CV, by email to by July 15, 2019.

The selection of abstracts will be communicated by August 1, 2019.

Each selected author will then be asked to submit a pre-paper of 2,000 to 3,000 words by November 1, 2019, on the basis of which the final selection will be made. Selected authors will be eligible for a travel and accommodation grant of up to $750 in order to attend the Symposium.

The Symposium will take place on February 24 – 25, 2020 and will function as a workshop: draft papers of approximately 6,000 words will be presented and commented upon. The aim of this format is to provide important input to authors to assist in the elaboration of their final papers.

Final papers of up to 10,000 words will be published in the Jean Monnet Working Paper Series of NYU and will also be considered for publication in an edited volume by a major publisher. In addition, a selection of papers will be considered for inclusion in a European Journal of International Law (EJIL) symposium.