IFAF commissions inclusive uniform and equipment review amid rapid growth of women and girls’ participation

The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) has announced a landmark policy review to ensure it is meeting the needs of the growing numbers of women and girls participating in the sport.

The review includes three strands focusing on equipment and apparel, women in governance and the representation of women across the sport more widely within IFAF’s more than 70 member federations worldwide. It comes at a time when American football is experiencing rapid growth and surging popularity, particularly amongst flag football, its gender-equal, non-contact format – one of the world’s fastest-growing disciplines with more than 20 million players in over 100 countries worldwide.

Women and girls are the biggest drivers of the rise in participation in flag football globally. In the USA alone, 474,000 young women between the ages of 6 and 17 played flag last year – an increase of 63 per cent since 2019. In the past six months, three U.S. states – California, Arizona and New York – have sanctioned girls’ flag as a high school sport with more set to follow. Similar growth is being replicated in other countries around the world.

Phoebe Schecter, athlete lead on IFAF’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Global Flag Football Ambassador and member of Great Britain’s Flag and Tackle national teams, is spearheading the equipment and apparel review, looking at the suitability of athlete clothing to ensure that women and girls feel comfortable playing.

Britain’s Phoebe Schecter, IFAF Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee athlete lead and member of the British women’s national teams in Flag and Tackle Football

A communication has already been sent to nations competing in the upcoming Continental Flag Football Championships asking federations to consult with female athletes on preferences around type and colour of clothing and equipment. This analysis will help inform decision-making and ultimately lead to an update of IFAF’s existing kit and apparel regulations to ensure American football remains an inclusive, diverse and welcoming sport.

Phoebe Schecter, IFAF Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee athlete lead, said:  “I am thrilled to be driving this important piece of work that will give female athletes in our sport a voice on what they wear when playing and training. Ensuring the comfort and protection of women and girls – and the specific needs of female bodies – in sport is vital to promoting inclusion, removing barriers and driving participation worldwide.”

In addition, IFAF is reviewing its governing statutes to ensure that it is creating opportunities for a more diverse leadership across the sport, with a view to increasing female representation at all levels of the game. Part of this is understanding the existing opportunities for women to be involved at a national level. To this end IFAF is carrying out a full review of the current roles, profiles and percentage of representation in each national federation as part of a wider analysis. It will then work with national federations to ensure there is an active pipeline of female leadership opportunities that serve the interests of the game and provide more equal representation of women in governance.

IFAF President, Pierre Trochet:

“The time is right for this review with the rapid gender shifts we are seeing in participation in our sport, driven by the explosion of flag football, alongside growing understanding across sport of the specific needs of female athletes. As IFAF, we have a responsibility and a commitment to ensure women and girls feel safe, confident and welcome playing all forms of American football. With this review, we want to send a clear message that American football is for everyone. To that end, we also recognise and commit to the need to accelerate female representation in governance.”

The diversity and inclusion analysis sits alongside a wider, more extensive governance review being carried out by IFAF in partnership with a specialist sports governance consultancy to support the development of American football worldwide. The full governance review will build on IFAF’s previous work in this area and is a key element of the international federation’s wider strategic development strategy to strengthen and expand the global game.

The aim is to enhance governance among IFAF member federations by analysing the current governance status of members and offering guidance, support, tools and resources where needed. Findings from the full governance review are expected to be presented at the 2023 IFAF Congress in Paris in November.

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