"It is extremely important that we talk more about women's football"
1 - Almost two years ago you founded Teammate Football Management, the first agency in Portugal dedicated exclusively to women's football. What is your assessment?
A: It was a wonderful first year, not only in terms of positioning the agency in the market, but also in terms of the numbers achieved. These figures show the clear growth and impact that women's football is having in the world of football. It is important to say that our agency is not just focused on plain and simple intermediation, we are an agency that offers a 360 service to our athletes and coaches. We have a multidisciplinary and highly qualified team to meet all the needs of those we represent. Because for Teammate, intermediation is much more than just signing new contracts.
At a business level, covering two complete markets, we carried out more than 30 operations, in 10 countries and 15 clubs. We signed the first professional and sponsorship contract for the youngest athlete in Portugal and completed our first paid transfer of an athlete represented by us. We also closed more than 10 sponsorship contracts, our Portuguese national team was at the Euros for the second time and qualified for a World Cup for the first time ever.
These are all clear indicators of change and growth. I am sure that this bet came at the right time. We don't want our work to be just a national benchmark, but also an international one. We will continue to work and search for partnerships in this regard.
2 - In the company, various services are covered throughout several Football areas, such as Psychology, Nutrition, Data Analysis, etc.... Did you have any difficulties in convincing the professionals of these areas to enter the Women's Football world or was the potential of the area recognised by everyone already right from the start?
A: The biggest difficulty was not to convince professionals from these areas to enter women's football, but to show the athletes the benefits of having these professionals in their portfolio and the impact it can have on their careers. We have chosen and surrounded ourselves with the right people in the most diverse areas and are in a process of (re)education with our athletes. Fortunately, some of them are already starting to see results and to enjoy, in their daily lives, the "extra work" they do. On the other hand, and unfortunately, some of these solutions end up being expensive for the reality of what a player makes, therefore many players don't look for these services, not because they don't want to, but because they are unable to afford them.
3 - The agency already has several players of other nationalities in its ranks. Is this increasing internationalisation part of its objectives?
A: We are a Portuguese company and our main focus is to help the Portuguese player to shine in the four corners of the world. However, evolving is key to success for any business and is inherent in our daily lives. I often say that we are our main and only competition and, in such a saturated market, we have to wake up every day with the ambition to do differently.
In this sense, we want to keep up with the growth of women's football and therefore we are on the lookout for new expansion opportunities and looking for the right partners.
There are several paths to success and I am sure that we will soon find the best one. However, we will not give up the identity of a premium agency: one that demands quality more than quantity, and is able to support our Teammates in a close and differentiated manner.
4 - In addition to international players, Teammate Football Management has represented several athletes who are still in the youth ranks of their respective clubs. Do you feel that the reality of Women's Football has also changed in training or are such improvements mostly noticeable in the upper levels?
A: Personally, what I feel is that there are more and more girls playing football and consequently a higher percentage of quality. Of course, the improvements will always be more noticeable and visible in a first team, especially if this team plays in professional ranks, because it is at the top of the pyramid and it is where the players have (or should have) the best conditions to perform their activity. Now, the "big" clubs already provide very good training, and the range of contexts, depending on the quality of the athlete, is varied: they can compete only with girls and/or mixed. There are also more and more resources and qualified people for women's football. The big challenge is to protect the existing and emerging talent, that is, it will be more and more difficult for future generations to reach the main teams of the big clubs: 1) other big clubs, such as FC Porto, enter women's football and 2) other clubs that already have women's football, create the necessary conditions to welcome players who do all their training in big clubs.
Otherwise, the impact on those players will be huge and many of them will end up leaving the country - not helping the development of our League - or giving up - due to the jolt of reality and lack of motivation.
5 - What about the parents of those young players? Do you think that the idea of a professional career in women's football is also growing among parents?
A: Without a doubt, and it is only to be expected. Where opportunity exists, there is belief. And it is also in the parents themselves, that we are witnessing a great change in mentalities. Today it is already common to see girls playing football and in the future, it will be more and more normal for them to be professional footballers.
6 - This year, Portugal qualified for the first time for a Women's World Cup. In your point of view, this qualitative jump is due to the recent improvement of the conditions or due to the lack of conditions still existing when compared with other teams?
A: This improvement is due to the work, persistence and perseverance of many people. But it is mainly due to the players, both past and present, and their outstanding talent. As soon as they were given the opportunity to dedicate themselves one hundred per cent to football, their quality shone through, and the results are there for all to see: qualification for EURO 2017 & 2021 and qualification for World Cup 2023.
In 2016, the Portuguese female player became more professionalised with the appearance of the "big" clubs, thus the national team stopped having amateur players in their squads. Within a year, they reached the first European championship.
7 - One of the things you always defended was that the so-called 'non-big' clubs should create more conditions for the development of the sport in the country. What are your expectations for this development in the short-term future?
A: That is correct. Currently, our league is composed of twelve teams: four professional - players who dedicate all their time to football - and eight amateur - players who study or work. So the competitive difference at every matchday is huge. In amateur clubs, players struggle to have proper training sessions at decent hours, better contracts, proper dressing rooms, pitches without holes, etc. As for the professionals, the players are asking for greater recognition, that is, for a senior women's team not to be treated like an under-15 men's team and to have the same working conditions as a senior men's team. Having their own resources: many of these professional teams share resources with other tiers: psychologist, nutritionist, physical trainer, etc.
The path I advocate is professionalisation, following the trend of the major European leagues. I believe that only in this way can we create a [good] marketable product that people want to watch, have a more competitive league, attract more sponsors, generate more revenue and protect the players in their professional activity: football.
8 - In April you received your FIFA Agent's licence. How does the new agents' regulation improve the professional football industry?
A: I think that FIFA's move to start again regulating and supervising the activity of agents was extremely important, because the market was becoming more and more "unbridled" and regulating this profession was strictly necessary. Now athletes, coaches, clubs and other entities, who previously had to deal with all kinds of agents, can have greater security as they will only have to deal with FIFA Agents.
However, there are things [in the new agents' regulation] that can and should be improved, but it is a very important first step in order to separate the true agents from the questionable ones.
On the other hand, this turns out to be perhaps the only profession in the world where caps are imposed [on commissions charged by the agent]. In my case, which is dedicated only to women's football, where commissions are extremely low, it would be important to think about a transitional rule. At this stage of development of women's football, to be capping a market that is still pretty scarce makes no sense.
9 - This year Raquel is returning for the second edition of TFS. How important is it for Women's Football to have the spotlight it had in the first edition of the event? What topics do you hope to see discussed and explored this year?
A: It is extremely important that we talk more and more about women's football, as this is the only way to accelerate its growth and normalise the subject. I remember, on the first day of the last edition of TFS, it was interesting to see that many people were unaware of the reality of women's football [in Portugal] and that on the last day, many [people] showed real interest in knowing more and wanting to contribute [to the development of women's football] in our country. In the next edition [of 2023], I naturally hope to see more panel discussions dedicated exclusively to women's football, and also, more female presence, in general football panel discussions.
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