Female football migration: Motivational factors for early migratory processes
In 1994 Joseph Maguire and John Bale, both pioneers of the study of sport migration, noted that the migration of sports labour was gathering pace and occurring over a widespread geographical area and within an increasing number of sports subcultures (Bale and Maguire, 1994, p. 5). Two years later, Maguire also commented on the growing number of female athletes who were becoming sports migrants (Maguire, 1996, p. 336). Despite this recognition even today there is little literature on migration for those sports disciplines which enjoy little international publicity and female migrants. This is well illustrated by the case of women’s football. In recent years women’s football has enjoyed a boom in participation and it is
now the fastest growing women’s sport worldwide. The number of registered players has more than doubled since 2000 and there are now over 30 million females playing football (FIFA, 2007; Harris, 2007). In some countries, such as England, Norway and the United States, football is already the favourite sport among girls (Skogvang, 2006; Williams, 2007). Besides its increasing popularity the game has also experienced a growth in economic support and coaching, the expansion of well-organized and professional leagues in several countries and, though thin, increasing media coverage (Weigelt and Knanoh, 2006; FIFA, 2007). Alongside its development, new dimensions of the game have been emerging,
such as the international migration of players. Though lacking literature, media coverage suggests that this international flux of women footballers has been increasing substantially in recent years, expanding beyond traditional geographic limits and assuming globalized characteristics. Very little, however, is known about how the migration of female footballers has developed and what drives this migratory process. This chapter presents a case study of immigration into Danish women’s foot-
ball that attempts to provide a foundation upon which an international debate on this topic can develop. A study of female football migration can give insight into the early stages of migratory processes and help us to understand what drives sports clubs to start recruiting foreign players and sports migrants to leave their home country. For that, we describe first of all the historical development of immigration into Danish women’s football since the early 1990s. Second, we analyse the motivating and de-motivating factors with respect to the clubs’
recruitment of foreign players. And, finally, we analyse the players’ motives for migrating and their experiences of the process. Our approach is mainly qualitative and data are drawn from a questionnaire survey sent to all the clubs in Denmark’s premier league for women’s football and from 15 interviews we conducted with foreign players and their coaches and managers in three of the clubs.