RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has today announced a groundbreaking funding initiative and support system for women’s football clubs worth $13.3 million.
This groundbreaking initiative is designed to further enhance the rapidly growing women’s football leagues and the wider sport in Saudi Arabia, ensuring its sustainability and development for years to come.
With a vision to inspire and nurture future generations of female footballers, SAFF’s funding program will provide vital financial assistance to the Saudi Premier League and Women’s First Division clubs.
To be eligible for this funding, clubs must have a SAFF membership and Nafes license to actively participate in all women’s tournaments organized by the federation. They must also meet the organizational and technical requirements issued by SAFF. Furthermore, clubs must demonstrate their financial adequacy and commitment to the financial efficiency system according to national standards.
SAFF will allocate the $13.3 million to women’s football programs across the country, supporting clubs and players to continue the rapid growth of the women’s game in recent years.
Lamia Bahaian, the newly elected vice president of SAFF, said: “Today’s announcement is another monumental step for SAFF in our unwavering dedication to developing and sustaining a thriving women’s football presence in the Kingdom. We aim to inspire young girls (to believe) that a career in football is not only feasible for them but promising. Women and girls are central to everything we do in sport, ensuring that we provide equal access to facilities, opportunities, and careers both on and off the pitch. This is made possible thanks to the tremendous support received from SAFF’s management.
“A key motivation behind this program has stemmed from witnessing an incredible 30 percent growth in women’s football clubs and players across Saudi Arabia — not just the major cities — over the past year. The interest potential of women’s football is vast, and we want to ensure we’re doing everything we can to support and sustain this growth.”
The program sets four key goals for participating clubs:
1. Enhance club governance and sustainability through improved structure and strategy, in addition to financial and operational monitoring.
2. Expand competitions and diversify teams to include an U-17 team and women’s futsal senior team.
3. Create job opportunities and develop the workforce by appointing Saudi female coaches within the technical staff, and recruiting women in the administrative, technical, and medical positions.
4. Cultivate athletes to represent national teams by signing professional contracts with Saudi female players and nurturing their development from the grassroots level to the senior team.
In alignment with Saudi Vision 2023, women’s sports in the Kingdom have made significant progress, with over 190,000 females now actively participating in sports each week. Women’s football, in particular, has witnessed substantial advancements, including the establishment of a dedicated women’s football department in 2019, the creation of a national women’s team, and the launch of the SAFF Women’s Premier League.
Today, the Premier and First Division leagues feature over 30 clubs and 600 players from over 20 nations. On an amateur level, almost 50,000 schoolgirls took part in the inaugural schools’ league across 4,700 teams from all corners of Saudi Arabia.
In addition, over 49 female referees are officially registered and officiating league matches, with the first Saudi female referee – Anoud Al-Asmari – breaking into FIFA’s licensed list. There are 1,080 additionally licensed coaches playing a significant role in nurturing young female talent across clubs, academies, schools, and training centers in different cities around the country.