This week, Trottur Head Coach Nik Chamberlain in Iceland's Pepsi Max League talks about his club's first season back in the top flight since 2015. We also look at a recent report issued by FIFA regarding their Women's World Cup Solidarity Fund, as well as a report from the French Football Federation on the economic and environmental impacts of the 2019 Women's World Cup, which they hosted last year to such success. We also give pause to the recent thoughts that FIFA President Gianni Infantino's idea of holding the Women's World Cup every two years rather than four. We finish with news that English international forward Jodie Taylor is going on loan from OL Reign to parent club Olympic Lyon in France.
Nik Chamberlain leads Trottur to Record Points Haul in the Club's First Season Back in Iceland's Top Flight Since 2015
TribalFootball.com talked exclusively with Nik Chamberlain, the head coach of the women's side Trottur in Iceland's Pepsi Max League, the country's top tier women's football league. This is his fourth season coaching the senior side at the club after retiring as a player. Chamberlain guided Trottur to last season's Division 1 (second tier) League title and automatic promotion to the Top Tier league of 10 teams. This season, Trottur has consolidated their place nicely above the two team relegation zone, currently sitting in a three way tie for seventh with 7 points after 8 games (with Stjarnan and KR) and only 2 points behind IBV in sixth (though IBV have a game in hand). Trottur's leading scorer is first year American import Stephanie Ribeiro, who is tied for fourth place in the Golden Boot table with 5 and is the only import within the top 10 leading scorers' list (including those with 4 or more tallies). Ribeiro played at the University of Connecticut and was the 17th overall selection in the 2017 NWSL College Draft by FC Kansas City (now Utah Royals). She missed the 2017 season with a knee injury and went to preseason camp with the then Seattle Reign before moving to Norway to play in their top flight, first with Grand Bodo in 2018 (who ended up being relegated) and last season with Alvadsnes. Coach Chamberlain said that Ribeiro has slotted in nicely to his preferred style of play, "We were looking for an all-around striker, one who can hold the ball up, link up with others and strike the ball with either foot. The Pepsi Max League is a lot more physical [than the First Division] and she has fit in well with our playing style." Ribeiro replaced Northern Ireland international Lauren Wade, who led the forward line during their title run last season and has moved onto 2019-20 European Champions League Quarterfinalist and Scottish League powerhouse Glasgow City. Chamberlain further explained his playing approach, "We play the ball on the floor, up from the back and look for passes to split the defensive line." He recruits players who have technical ball skills. He mentioned new Australian youth international import Laura Hughes (19), who has 2 goals in 7 games. Chamberlain says that the Canberra United W-League player (3 seasons), "is not very tall and wouldn't fit into a direct style of play, for example."
Iceland's Pepsi Max League club Trottur's head coach Nik Chamberlain guides his team from the touchline. (Photo Courtesy Nik Chamberlain/Trottur Reykjavik)
He has not seen much of a disruption to the league in Iceland due to COVID-19, other than the federation starting in June rather than May, in order to get a better sense of what was transpiring with the pandemic and how new COVID-19 cases were trending. Iceland has been a world leader in tracking and individual quarantining in order to manage the pandemic's effects on the country's people and economy, handling the pandemic exceptionally well. Breidablik, Fylkir and KR's squads all did have to quarantine for two weeks after the season started for positive tests, necessitating rescheduling to have a full complement of games. For Trottur, Chamberlain admitted that, "The effect [of the schedule changes] has been stress on the girls with 3 games in 8 games (one a Cup match)." Regarding the importing of players from abroad, he felt that, "It was more on par with last season if not more." Trottur has four imports this season, with Ribeiro, Hughes and two Americans in 22-year-old forward Mary Vignola (ex-University of Tennessee) and defender Morgan Goff (ex-University of North Carolina).
Chamberlain explained that his team has played quite brightly for the most part this season, "Everyone thought we would finish far behind the others." He is proud that they have achieved more points in the Pepsi Max league to date than in Trottur's previous two seasons in the top flight—2 points in 2015 and 3 points in 2013—with relegation the end result each time. The team has put together a four match unbeaten run in 2020. They came unstuck against 2019-20 Women's Champions League Round of 16 side Breidablik away on July 24, when Chamberlain said that, "Everything that could go wrong did." His side bounced back to gain a point four days later in a cracking 5-5 tie at home against Selfoss. Olof Kristinsdottir (17), a U-17 youth international for Iceland and on loan for the season from Valur, had a hat-trick to jump into the top ten goal scorers' frame with 4 on the season.
Nik Chamberlain, a native of England, played collegiate in the States at the University of Auburn-Montgomery and then mostly in the second and third division in Iceland. At the age of 29, he started coaching all four Trottur's women's outfits, the senior side, the U-19, U-16 and U-14 squads, but now is in charge of just the senior and U-19 teams. He would like to coach at a higher level club in Iceland in the future but says that currently, "I am content now with the club's progress in the league." There has been more support for the women's program from the club as he builds a more professional set-up. He is on contract through the 2021 season. Nik Chamberlain is quickly building Trottur into a competitive women's side in the top tier in Iceland and their engaging and thoughtful coach and the club have a bright future ahead of them.
Trottur coach Nik Chamberlain coaches his Trottur side in Iceland. (Photo Courtesy Nik Chamberlain/Trottur Reykjavik)
Elsewhere in the league, Breidablik is back on top of the table with 21 points from 7 matches, with current champions Valur second on 19 points after 8 games. Breidablik had to quarantine for two weeks following a positive test for one of their local players returning from abroad. The key match thus far this season was their 4-0 defeat of Valur at home on July 21, with a hat trick from 19-year-old Sveindis Jonsdottir (an Icelandic youth international), who has six goals on the season. Jonsdottir transferred from Keflavik in March, where she scored 6 goals in 17 matches last season. She is joint third in the Golden Boot table, behind teammate Berlind Porvaldsdottir, who leads with 10. Porvaldsdottir (28)—a full international for Iceland—played with AC Milan this past season until the Italian League was shut-down for the global pandemic, scoring five goals in five games. Elin Jensen (25) of Valur is second with 8 goals; she is also a full international for her country and scored twice in Iceland's 4-1 win over Hungary in UEFA Women's Championship qualifying last August and in their 6-0 away win over Latvia last October. Fylkir, another side that had to quarantine after the start of the season, is third on 12 points after 7 games—along with fourth place Selfoss on 10 points (also after 7 games)—and both still could trouble the top two. At the bottom of the table FH has one win in 7 matches for 3 points from a 1-0 win over Thor/KA on July 14; they need to improve their pace in picking up points from games or they will go right back down to Division 1, after their promotion last season.
Note: As the month of July closed, the Pepsi Max league was suspended until Iceland's Football Federation could decide what to do regarding the upturn in COVID-19 cases in the country, with a decision coming on August 6. The government-driven decision affects all contact sports in the country, but only men's and women's soccer were in-season.
FIFA Women's World Cup Football Club Solidarity Fund
FIFA recently issued a 40 page report detailing their new funding mechanism for women's football clubs that was started after the 2019 Women's World Cup in France: FIFA Women's World Cup Club Solidarity Fund 2019. In the report's forward, FIFA President Gianni Infantino explained that FIFA's Billion Dollar investment over four years was driven by the success of the 2019 Women's World Cup and the opportunity to build on that, "The competition showed that we are on the right track with our commitment to women's football, and this is why we decided to double our investment to USD 1 Billion over four years. Through significant funding and targeted initiatives, we want to expand the women's game, considerably increase the number of female footballers worldwide and promote the empowerment of women in society. France 2019 also showed that clubs worldwide are doing essential and excellent work in developing and training players. This merely confirmed what we already knew, and we are committed to providing further support in that area. After all, the success of this World Cup is also their success. The FIFA Women's World Cup Club Solidarity Fund recognises this, offering financial benefits to all clubs involved in the development of the protagonists at the tournament. This investment should enable the clubs to further professionalise their women's football structures in order to ultimately offer even more talented young girls and women the opportunity to shine."
This Solidarity Fund rewards clubs for encouraging women's professional football development. Eligible clubs were the 24 FIFA member associations of the 2019 France Women's World Cup participants as well as those clubs that trained them when they were between the ages of 12-22. The plan is to build a high performance environment for the best players in the world and continue to grow the grassroots programs that lead them to professional careers. This new project started with US$8.46 million, part of FIFA's $50 million paid to the 24 teams at the 2019 event—again for clubs—split evenly between the players' eligible releasing club (their current club that they were contracted to at the World Cup) and 50% to their former training clubs. A stipulation was: "In the spirit of the programme, FIFA requested that all funds be used for youth and development programmes for women and girls. Even if the eligible club has only men's or boys' teams, the club must ensure that talented women and girls can continue to have an access route through the men's/boys' elite pathway system. In order to receive the funds, clubs had to formally agree to invest all of the money in women's football."
The distribution across 822 clubs (across 39 FIFA Member Countries) by FIFA Confederation was as follows:
A total of 59 clubs benefitted in each of three countries: Australia, France and the US, followed by 56 in Germany, 55 in Sweden and 50 in the Netherlands. Countries that did not participate in the 2019 WWC but which still gained FIFA funds through their training efforts with players in the event included:
Finland 3 clubs
Russia 3 clubs
Belgium 2 clubs
Iceland 2 clubs
Portugal 2 clubs
Turkey 2 clubs
Those nations with 1 club (all in Europe) receiving funds included:
The fund was shared between players' current eligible releasing clubs and their training clubs. Of the 822 participating clubs receiving funds, 644 were training clubs and 43 were releasing clubs, while 135 clubs were rewarded as both a training club and a releasing club.
In total funds allocated, the U.S. led with US$789,960, followed closely by England (US$732,720), France (US$704,650), Germany (US$615,450) and Sweden (US$609,890). China led the AFC nations with US$426,010, with the three African participants—Cameroon, Nigeria and Republic of South Africa—all receiving around US$200,000 each. The CONMEBOL members were just over US$150,000 each for Chile, Argentina and Brazil, while 2023 co-hosts Australia received $269,130 and New Zealand at US$193,490. For CONCACAF, Canada (which has no fully professional clubs and most of their national team players go abroad to U.S. colleges—which were not eligible for funds as the U.S. College systems regulate their own sports and are not FIFA members—and/or to NWSL clubs or clubs in Europe) received only US$134,720 and Jamaica received only US$22,520—again, all of their 2019 roster players were playing with U.S. colleges or clubs abroad—a purposive strategy that helped the team surprisingly advanced in third place from CONCACAF qualifying—so the funding went to only a few local Jamaican club sides for developmental work. The lowest award payments overall were to UEFA members Belgium at US$2,910, Kazakhstan at US$2,590 and Serbia at US$890.
The top 10 clubs receiving funds were:
Olympique Lyon, France US$178,770
FC Barcelona, Spain US$174,440
Manchester City, England US$129,000
Chelsea FC Women, England US$119,880
Arsenal, England US$119,730
Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza, Japan US$114,830
Montpellier Herault SC, France US$113,820
FC Bayern Munich, Germany US$111,670
BG Fundit Asia. Thailand US$101,980
Paris Saint-Germain, France US$ 97,990
UEFA had 8 of the top 10 clubs receiving funds, with England and France tied with 3 each, while the other two large individual recipients came from Asia.
Some examples were presented in the report as to how clubs plan to spend the allocations from FIFA. Tokyo Verdy Beleza used the money to fund a preseason camp and hire more staff, particularly in the medical field. The JFA is adding a fully professional league in 2021, which we expect to see the club join. Glenfield Rovers in New Zealand will use their US$18,000 for continuing education for players and coaches and specialist training. The Rovers also plan to offer paid coaching positions for their female footballers to spread the game in the Auckland area. Colo-Colo in Chile, which has won 13 domestic championships and one CONMEBOL Libertadores Femenina title (in 2012 and three runner-up finishes in 2011, 2015 and 2017) since 2007, is using the US$64,780 in FIFA funds on facilties, to improve the women's environment.
Melbourne Victory FC (US$27,770) and Newcastle United Jets (US$13,750), the latter which could not afford to bring in any imports last season but used a number of talented youth that should yield strong results on the field in the future. The FIFA funds should encourage the club to keep their commitment to youth development.
In CONCACAF, all 9 NWSL member teams received significant funds:
Portland Thorns US$84,200
Orlando Pride US$71,510
OL Reign US$70,140
North Carolina Courage US$65,300
Houston Dash US$62,180
Chicago Red Stars US$56,780
Utah Royals FC US$53,550
Washington Spirit US$44,560
Sky Blue FC US$29,620
These awards certainly are a symbol of the U.S. players and coaches' commitment to play in the NWSL, particularly ahead of World Cup and Olympic Game tournaments
Other North American clubs receiving awards included the former USL W-League power and strong youth club Vancouver Whitecaps FC with US$40,940 in Canada and Sereno SC [now Real Salt Lake Arizona] in the Phoenix, Arizona area, which received US$15,350, the highest grant of any American club not aligned with the professional league. Sereno SC trained Julie Ertz [Chicago Red Stars] and Jessica McDonald [North Carolina Courage] earlier in their career. Real Colorado was next at $13,180, having trained Mallory Pugh [Sky Blue FC] of the U.S. and Janine Beckie [Manchester City] of Canada. The smallest sum to a U.S. side was a $750 grant to Auburndale Soccer Club of New York, which trained Jamaican national team goalkeeper Nicole McClure. The well-traveled McClure (30) played collegiately at the University of Hawaii and University of South Florida and then spent time with clubs in Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Israel, Serbia, France, and Croatia; she most recently played with Sion Swifts in Northern Ireland in 2019.
Soccer America has reported previously that youth clubs in the U.S. were not aware of the program until after the application deadline had expired. The esteemed outlet in the U.S. also pointed out that FIFA had a similar award for men's sides after the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but the money was much larger [US$209 Million].
In Sweden, the top clubs receiving awards were three traditional challengers for the Damallsvenskan title in recent years in Linköpings FC (US$89,480) FC Rosengård (US$81,020) and Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC (US$70,310). In fourth was last season's surprising third place side Vittsjö GIK (US$34,130), which sent four players to the 2019 Women's World Cup but none were from Sweden—one each came from Canada, New Zealand, Scotland and South Africa. They do have a strong base of young Swedish youth who have received caps below the full level and the club recently signed Australian international striker Emily Gielnik, who joined Bayern Munich in Germany after the 2019 WWC. Eskilstuna United DFF, another smaller club, was fifth with US$29,000.
We applaud FIFA for establishing this new program, which should encourage more nations to provide additional resources to qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which will have 8 more places available at 32 (up from 24 in 2015 and 2019). One concern is that the funds tend to go to the big professional clubs (Olympique Lyon, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and the NWSL sides). These organizations have certainly prioritized and invested in women's football but will it lead to simply the richest sides continuing to build on that and widening the gap from many other professional and semi-professional sides? The 50% going to developing clubs has certainly expanded the payments to other clubs in Europe, Asia and CONCACAF and expanded the payments to 15 non-WWC countries in 2019, but perhaps FIFA should skew the percentage even more to developing sides (perhaps 60% or 66%). This will also encourage professional clubs to expand their youth academies, which we are seeing grow around the world, and providing a direct path to a professional career to their area's youth.
French Football Federation Releases 2019 Womens World Cup Impact Report
In a related subject, the French Football Federation released a 19 page report (in French only) detailing that the 2019 Women's World Cup—which they successfully hosted—contributed EUR 284 million to the French GDP (which includes direct, indirect and induced contributions) yielding a net capital gain of 108 million to the French GDP. The average contribution per spectator was EUR 142 and for every one Euro spent, nine host cities and regions realized a return on investment between 2 to 20 Euros in contribution to the French GDP.
Photo: 2019 Women's World Cup match in Paris—courtesy French Football Federation
Noël Le Graët, President of the FFF and the 2019 WWC Local Organizing Committee, added, "The first satisfaction is to have proved that a women's football competition can win popular support and help to change the perception of women's football. In 2014, when the FFF decided to take over the organisation, I remember the skepticism surrounding the organisation, particularly with regard to the economic dimension. Today, the economic results are positive. They prove that the efforts of FIFA, the LOC, the FFF, the leagues, and the host regions and cities have paid off. It is also a source of pride that football, with the organisation of a major women's sporting event, brings significant direct and indirect economic benefits to the territories and the community. The environmental effort should also be highlighted. In this sector, the FFF's involvement, with the implementation of its eco-responsible policy, must continue."
The report also listed positive socio-economic and environmental impacts from the tournament, which attracted 1.2 million French and overseas spectators and a global TV audience of over 1 billion fans.
On the environmental impact side, a total of 6.4 tons of food waste was also collected and donated to local community-based associations.
FIFA's Gianni Infantino Introduces the Idea of Holding the Women's World Cup Every Two Years.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino recently held an interview in which one point he made was to host the Women's World Cup every two years rather than on its current four year cycle. Infantino said, "I ask everyone to invest in women's football because it is the future. One idea which came in this period, and even before as well, is maybe we should organise the Women's World Cup every two years, instead of every four years."
Certainly the current uncertain economic and sporting schedule environment due to COVID-19 places such a plan on the back burner for now. However, the idea does have huge implications for the women's game. What happens to the Olympic Games tournament? FIFA has always been lukewarm to the men's tournament—as have many nations around the world—and is a U-23 tournament which is much more important to the IOC than FIFA. However, on the women's side, the Olympic Games is an important tournament with senior teams participating. A two year cycle for the WWC would certainly take the senior sides out of the Olympics, perhaps to be replaced by younger sides. The expansion from 16 Olympic participants to 32 in the World Cup puts more pressure on individual federations via qualifying games (which typically draws more teams than the Olympic Game qualifying does in various Confederations) while also placing more pressure on individual leagues to fit around these national team friendlies, qualifiers and Finals. Where do the individual Confederation Women's Championships fit in—particularly the European Championships which typically come during that second year between Women's World Cups? I don't want to be anti-change in general but there are a lot of concerns and obstacles to hosting the Women's World Cup every two years. However, it is an idea that is being circulated at high levels within the game's administrative corridors and we all have to be aware of it and carefully consider the implications of such a change for the women's game.
English International Jodie Taylor goes on loan from OL Reign of the NWSL to Olympique Lyon in France.
On August 4, OL Reign of the NWSL announced that it was transferring two-time English Women's World Cup Finals forward Jodie Taylor to Olympique Lyonnais, the parent company for OL Reign. The trade of Taylor from the Tacoma/Seattle club is another sign that the recently completed NWSL Challenge Cup was probably the end of serious NWSL competition for 2020, though we are still waiting on official word from the league. The well-traveled Taylor played collegiately at Oregon State University and with clubs in the U.S., Canada, England, Sweden and Australia. Taylor said, "I am extremely excited to be joining OL for the remainder of 2020. It is a great opportunity to join one of the best women's teams in the world." OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore added, "When the opportunity arose for Jodie to move to OL to support their run in the Coupe de France and Champions League—as well as for the first part of OL's upcoming season—we felt it important to support Jodie given all she has contributed to the club. We are happy that Jodie will be able to pursue this opportunity and would gladly welcome her back to our club in the future." OL Reign retains her NWSL rights and it is assumed that she would return to Tacoma sometime in 2021.
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey